Bouncing With Bobbie

Categories:Our Battle

He is a bit awkward.  He has the potential to make some folks uncomfortable.

And he likes to dance.

In church.

During the worship.

And well, there is no polite way to say this; he has never had dancing lessons.  His dancing consists of bouncing.  Just bouncing.  Up and down as if he were on a pogo stick.

It is a good cardiovascular workout, but as I said, it is a bit awkward.

Awkward and beautiful.

Incredibly beautiful.

Bobbie was born with some rather pronounced cognitive impairments.  His mind doesn’t function “normally.”

Thus he is free from the fear of what people think of him (at least during worship).

This is beautiful.

And enviable.  How I wish I were as free from the tyranny of appearances.

Last Sunday his freedom was contagious as numerous people joined him up front bouncing and dancing.  Dancing and bouncing.  Young and old alike joined Bobbie in his unbridled worship, free of self-consciousness.

It was beautiful.

During worship, while most are standing I prefer to sit.  Yet when Bobbie came over to me, grab my hands, and pulled me to my feet I had one thought,

“It’s a good day to bounce.”

So I stood up and bounced with Bobbie.

 

 

Staff Switch

Categories:News & Stuff

Sometimes you’ve got the right people on the bus…

…and sometimes the right people need to switch seats.

 

Listen to this brief explanation from Rob Link:

Play

Do You See

Categories:Impact

Here’s another walking-the-dog-story (see last weeks blog for the first one).

Barkly and I were walking downtown the other day.

Since one of us is rather striking and handsome we often get stopped by strangers who want to meet the good-looking one.

While walking this gentleman slowed down – I assumed to say hi to Barkly.  Thinking he wanted to meet my fetching fury friend I stopped, made a moment of eye contact and said, “Hi.”

His response surprised me.  He wasn’t stopping to greet to my hairy hound.  He was stopping to say hi to me.

Unbeknownst to me he had been coming to The River the last few weeks having recently found himself homeless.

As I looked him in the eye and offered a greeting he said rather vehemently, “that’s why I love The River!”

Wondering if he was referencing the handsome nature of the lead pastor and his dog, but not sure, I inquired as to what he was talking about.

“You guys see homeless people!  I mean really see us!  Most people walk right on by and never see us.  You guys have made me feel apart of a family. Sometimes I feel like a ghost.

Unseen.”

Like a ghost.

My heart broke for this man and the homeless community.

At the same time I was inspired by my church that sees – really sees – homeless people while offering a place within the family.

 

The Sweet Nectar of Heaven

Categories:Life of Jesus

She was counting her change as Barkly and I walked by.

It was Sunday morning, and the pooch and I were taking our half time walk (i.e. between services).  We happened upon this woman we had seen in church who was hunched over her open palm filled with loose coins.  It was clear she was counting the last of her monthly support.  She’d have to wait until the first of the month to have any cash again.  Until then she would rely on the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission to meet her basic needs.

She saw us coming, put her money away and walked with us.  We struck up a conversation – nothing deep, simply light and casual.  As I was turning right, she kept going straight and said, “Well, I’m off to buy a soda.  See you next Sunday.”

As we walked our separate ways, I said, “Good idea, a Mt. Dew sounds great right now.”

About 25 minutes later Barkly and I made our way back to church where we stationed ourselves to greet the second service folks.  One of our security guys came over with an ice-cold

Mt. Dew saying some lady had dropped it off for me.

It was the same woman I had walked with earlier.

The same homeless woman who was down to her last penny.

The same woman who would have to wait two weeks before her next support check.

The same woman who was excited to buy herself a chilly beverage on a hot morning.

The very same woman.

And she spent her last dime on me!

In our home we jokingly yet affectionately call Mt. Dew, The Sweet Nectar of Heaven.

This time, there really was something heavenly about the dew.

A Walk in the Woods

Categories:Reflection

My friend Rod and I took a few young men backpacking a couple weeks ago into the Smokey Mountains.  Nothing but us, what we could carry on our backs and the great out doors for 3 nights and 4 glorious days.

Oh, and 28 miles, 6,000 feet of descent, and 6,000 feet of ascent.

If you have never trekked into the backcountry you will not know the joys of unadulterated nature nor will you know the mental assault that the miles and mountains make on your mind.

For some it is pure heaven.

For others it is pure hell.

We had one young man for whom the trip seemed closer to the latter than the former. Let’s call him George.

I knew he might struggle when a mere 50 yards into the hike he asked if we could take a break because he was tired.  My thought at the time – “Uh Oh.”

There were times when George thought he couldn’t take another step let alone finish the grueling trip. At times he seemed broken with despair. It was physically demanding all he had to give and more.  At one point while crossing a knee-deep river, he slipped, flipped onto his backpack and submerged all of his stuff in the icy mountain water.  My thought at the time – “Uh Oh.”

Our last day included a 4,000 foot elevation gain over several miles.  Needless to say we were all tuckered out – George more so than the rest of us.  When we finally reached our vehicle George collapsed in fatigue.  He was a puddle of tiredness and exhaustion.

He raised his head to speak.  My thought at the time – “Uh Oh.”  I thought for sure he would launch into a complaining tirade.

Yet to my surprise, rather than making some disparaging remarks he said something incredibly profound.

“That was the most difficult thing I have ever done.  And the best thing I have ever done.”

Then he collapsed back into a semi catatonic heap.

Wow.  What wisdom from a 14-year-old young man.

Out of difficult times come our best times.

So profound I’ll say it again.

Out of difficult times come our best times.

I think we can learn something form George.

Often the best things in life are the most difficult.

Blind Spot

Categories:No Compromise, Our Battle

It used to be when men wanted to disguise their losing battle to male pattern baldness they went with the comb-over. Windy days were the bane of every such mans existence.

As one who has lost the battle to the aforementioned dreaded disease, I’m going to let you in on a secret.  Here it is:

The shaved head is today’s comb-over.  Most of us who shave our heads want you to believe we shave out of choice.  In reality it is to hide the accursed (at least accursed in my self conscious opinion) horseshoe halo of hair.  If I shave my head I can at least fool myself into thinking no one knows how bald I really am.

Crazy isn’t it.

I’ve been enacting this deception for over 12 years now.

Over those 12 years I’ve learned something about shaving the old noggin.  I’ve learned that I am prone to miss the same spot right behind my ears if I am not careful.  There have been many times I’ve been out and about only to discover a little unshaved spot right behind my ear.  Never anywhere else.  If I’ve missed a spot it is right there behind my flappers.  It’s my shaving blind spot I need to be extra careful with.  When I shave my dome I need to be particularly mindful of that area.

Here’s a parallel for you:

We have a similar thing when it comes to our sin.

You might not need to worry about shoplifting, but you need to be extra mindful of your propensity to get sinfully angry and harsh.  You might not be tempted to murder your neighbor (depending on your neighbor), but you have a tendency to walk around with an arrogance so large your neck can’t support the size of your head.  You might not be prone to walk into adultery (or maybe you might) but you have a regular urge to walk in judgment and condemnation of anyone different than you.

What’s your blind spot?

Might be a good idea to be particularly mindful of that area.

Pride Before…

Categories:Reflection

Jake’s high school basketball team, Loy Norrix High School, was playing in a tournament last week.  They did pretty good, beating some teams they were not expected to beat.

Before one such game the other team was rather boisterously proclaiming their victory pre-tip.

“Let’s hurry up and get this quick win.”

“They’re all scrubs.”

“This will be easy.”

The ball went up, Loy Norrix showed up, trash talking mouths shut up, and the prideful got beat up.

Hmmm… Seems to me the Bible says something about pride going before a fall.

I was reminded of a great lesson.

Humility beats pride.

Mean or stupid

Categories:Reflection

There is a difference between malicious and ignorant.

This is a helpful distinction to grasp as we walk through life.  Here’s why – people are going to let us down, hurt us, disappoint us, and fail us time and time again.  (Just like we will them.)

Most of the time the offense/failure is a matter of ignorance and not maliciousness.

And that makes a world of difference.

When we think someone did that thing intentionally with the goal to hurt us – the hurt runs deeper.

If we think that someone did that exact same thing that hurt us out of stupidity, it hurts less.

It is a matter of intent.

Evil vs. fallible.

Intentional vs. mistake.

Malicious vs. ignorance.

At times people will be intentionally malicious – but not most of the time.  Most of the time it is a matter of ignorance.

Yet it seems we assume most of our hurts are done maliciously and only a few are a result of ignorance.

Life might be freer if we switch up our assumptions.

Thoughts on Church and Bathrobes

Categories:Good News

I remember growing up thinking two things about church:

  1. I loved the God that is talked about at church.
  2. Church must be for the ladies and not the fellas.

I came to the 2nd conclusion because I saw men standing around awkwardly at church while the women were thoroughly engaged. Although the pastor was always male, all the active members were female. And the dude who was the pastor always wore this thing that looked like a bathrobe!

Yikes. “What type of man wears a robe to work,” I wondered. No other man in any other place I observed. So the answer to my wondering was, “a godly man of course.”

To be a godly man one must wear a robe to work.

Yuck. As a young boy who only saw women involved in the church (a church which was led by a fella wearing a bathrobe!) I concluded that although I loved God, the church was not for me. To be godly must only be for the female species.

Yet as my understanding of things Bible increased I began to see that my earlier conclusion was wrong.

Check these facts out:

  1. David was a godly man and he kicked a@#!
  2. Samson was one bad dude who did awesome guy things to save God’s people.
  3. Ehud was a left handed swordsmen who whupped a chubby king so that the people of God might walk into freedom
  4. Jesus himself got pissed at the folks who were exploiting the poor at the temple and went nuts.

It really doesn’t take long to see these four stories aren’t exceptions, but the norm.

Nor does it take long for me to realize that the lack of “maleness” at my childhood churches was not by biblical design but rather by unintentional human consequence.

There is more to this Christian faith than dudes who were robes, awkward men, and overly involved females! Upon further review there is something very appealing to the male species.

Here are two things I want as a pastor:

  1. I want to reintroduce men to the awesomeness of church and the Jesus behind it.
  2. I want to never, never, never wear a bathrobe while preaching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of Bikes

Categories:Reflection

I was watching Elyse (our 6 years old) ride her bike the other day.  It made me think back to my early bike riding days.

I didn’t learn until I was in fourth grade.

Fourth grade!

Before I ever gained my bicycle balance my buddies and brother (Jason) were riding wheelies and jumping curbs.  They had all learned much earlier than I. My tardiness to the pedal cost me countless trips to the candy store.  While Jason and my pals were riding to and from school in liberated bliss I was stuck riding the bus.

I missed out on a ton.

What was it that kept me off the bike for so long?  I remember very clearly.

I was scared to death of falling, crashing, scraping, tumbling, and bleeding.  So scared that I avoided the bike as if it were a rat infected with the bubonic plague.  I was sure the moment I straddled the bike it would throw me off just like an enraged bull throws those crazy cowboys. There was no way I was going to go the way of the bucked-off-cowboy!  My own two feet were good enough and really, how bad was the bus anyway?

Yet I realized that at some point or another we all must face our fears.  I didn’t want to be an old man who had no bike riding memories to reflect upon in his dotage.

So on some random day in the fourth grade I said enough is enough. I asked my dad to take my bike and me to an open parking lot.

With fear and trepidation I mounted my un trusty stead, put my pro keds to the pedal and immediately rode smack dab into the broad side of my dads truck – which happened to be the only vehicle in the whole darn lot!

My fear became reality.

Crashed.

And yet still alive.  Quite fine in fact.  The crash didn’t hurt and the blood felt like my own little red badge of courage.

I encountered that which I feared and yet I would still live? Amazing!  What Joy!  My fears had been ill founded.  Shock of all shocks.  Crashing and bleeding was not the end of the world!

The fear that had crippled me amounted to nothing when it was faced.

Let me say that again.  The fear that had crippled me amounted to nothing when faced.

I got back up, mounted my now trusty two-wheeled stead and rode like a champ.