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Monday, February 28, 2011

Ripples

He wasn't much taller than me. I didn't know much about his past though the wrinkles in his face told a tale of many lessons learned over many years. Despite the large rims to his thick glasses, you could see the twinkle in his eyes every time he smiled. I couldn't tell you his age nor would I venture a guess. Such a thing would be disrespectful for a man who has accomplished so much in his life.

Our first meeting was over spaghetti after church. I was a young seminary student looking for a place to land while I lived in Texas. He was a retired doctor with a tremendous passion for God's kingdom and a special place in his heart for students like me. I knew the minute I met him that I liked him a lot.

We talked off and on over the months that I lived in Fort Worth. Even though I wound up attending another church, he would still recall my name when I made my infrequent visits back to his.

Near the end of my first semester, I found myself beyond broke. My parents weren't able to pay for all of my schooling and my part-time job was not enough to stop the "bleeding" of my funds. As those last few weeks were drawing to a conclusion, it was very apparent that, without help, I wouldn't be able to return. I wandered over to the financial aid office to make my appeal. The short answer was "No, this late in the semester there were no more funds available. Maybe I should try getting a job."

Needless to say, I was frustrated and down. I knew seminary was where God wanted me. I just didn't see how it was going to happen. The Director of Financial Aid excused me from his office saying he had a previous meeting that was about to start. I left, tears in my eyes. Not willing to give up, I plopped myself down on the couch right outside his door and began to pray. My plan was to petition God and wait for the door to open so I could start my pleading all over again.

I lifted my head from my prayers as the door to the waiting area opened. It was my friend, Dr. Howard. I was embarrassed for him to see me that way so I quickly dried my eyes and extended my hand in a friendly greeting. He saw right through me. After a few questions from him, I quickly relayed my predicament. He looked at me with that twinkle in his eye and said, "So you've prayed about this? You know this is where God wants you right now?" "Without a doubt I replied." This was his strange reply. "Then there is nothing else to worry about. Go on back to your room. God will take care of the rest."

I was dumbfounded but I followed Dr. Howard's suggestion. I had only been in my dorm room for about 5 minutes when the phone rang. It was the Director of Financial Aid. "Your tuition is taken care of for next semester. You can go ahead and enroll."

I was stunned. "Really? What happened? What changed in the last ten minutes?"

"You obviously have an important friend. Dr. Howard said your schooling would be taken care of. He's paid your bill and you are clear until Fall of next year. Congratulations."

Cool story. One I won't ever forget. Dr. Howard left a huge impact on me...and dozens of other students just like me. But I sometimes wonder, did Dr. Howard ever ask God, "What difference can I make? I'm just a doctor."

Because of one man's faithfulness, dozens of students became ministers and missionaries and teachers and church leaders. Those people, in turn, touched thousands of lives. One man chose not to ask "who me?" and instead asked "why not me?"

I challenge you to do the same. Find a way to take who you are and what you have and bless others. It may be a listening ear or a little bit of time or just a word of encouragement to "keep on moving." Who knows? But the ripples you create will extend over generations. The legacy you leave will be immeasurable.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simple Pleasures

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

One of the more difficult adjustments after Sarah's death was missing out on the conversations that we would have. I know this may sound odd but it's a huge gap that forms when the person you most wanted to talk to about life is no longer there.

For instance, there were huge decisions regarding our move back to Middle Tennessee to start Ridgeview Church. The decision itself wasn't so hard. Sarah and I had prayed about it for many months and had accepted the call to go back to Franklin the day before the accident. My heart knew it was the right thing to do.

But there were decisions about when to make the announcement to our church in South Georgia, when to make the move, where to move to, what kind of house we would live in, etc. I remember the day I walked into the house I bought in Franklin. I had a sickening feeling as I looked at rooms and layout and location. I wanted so desperately to talk with Sarah and get her feelings. I wanted to get a mother's opinion on whether it was the right place for Abby and Harrison. All of that was gone.

There were many days I'd come home from the church after we had moved. Some particular meeting or conversation I had that day would leave me wanting to talk with someone further, maybe even to vent a little bit. It just wasn't an option.

Oh, there were other friends around who were more than willing to talk. They just weren't Sarah. And I wanted desperately to look into her face and hear her voice and to find that heart that understood me so well. After being together for over a decade, she knew me better than anyone.

It makes my heart hurt even further when I hear about my friends who have lost loved ones (see my 2.21.11 post) or think about my mom, who lost my dad after almost 50 years together. The simple pleasure of hearing that person laugh, watching them eat across from you at the table or roll over on their side in the bed next to you.

I'm thankful for the woman that God has put in my life now. I'm thankful that He gave me another woman who understands me...puts up with me (God help her). I'm thankful for the simple pleasures that have been restored. My prayer is that anyone who finds themselves at that place right now--missing that friend or that spouse--that you would find perfect peace in a God who majors in the business of restoration.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mr. Frank

I know a hero when I see one. Our culture places that label on too many people who are undeserving often failing to recognize the true heroes that surround us. Kobe Bryant is no hero. He plays a kid's game for millions of dollars so he can act like he is above the law. Neither are most of the people who appear in our movies and our TV shows. There are a few exceptions...very few. But most of them approach life as if they are entitled to what they have, like we owe them something. Heroes understand that this is not the case.

I met a hero a few weeks ago. Actually, I met two of them. Their names were Frank and Ruth.

Lisa and I were in East Tennessee leading a marriage retreat for a friend's church. It was a great group of people who came from all stages of life. Frank and Ruth were a part of that group. Together they had spent over 63 years as a married couple. In that time, they had faced a lot of things together. A lot of things. The kind of things that cause most modern marriages to fail. Financial struggles. Disagreements. Tough times. But, together, they had faced them, overcome them and become stronger because of it.

Friday night at the retreat began with Mr. Frank sharing some of his best jokes. Then he and Ruth sang a couple of songs together. It's a moment I won't soon forget. By the time they had finished their second song, I was completely intimidated. How do you teach a couple that's been married 63 years how to improve their marriage? I wanted to give them the microphone and sit down and take notes.

In my own way, I did. I took notes all weekend. I watched two love-birds as they showed me what marriage is all about. They talked about faith. They joked and laughed a lot. They smiled often. He opened her door. She looked at him as if he had just walked off the high school football field and won her heart all over again.

Do you understand why they became my heroes? I only knew them for three brief days and they made a huge impact on Lisa and me. I was blessed because of the time we shared.

Last night, Mr. Frank went to be with Jesus--a sudden heart attack, I believe. I would appreciate your prayers for Ms. Ruth. Her best friend of 63 years is gone. But I have no doubt in my mind he has received his "heroes welcome." Thanks for running the race so well, Frank and Ruth. I was watching...and I was changed.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 NLT

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Character

I was impacted by a lot of forces growing up. There were teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth workers, coaches, neighbors, extended family, sisters and, of course, parents. One of the consistent messages I got from those people was that character matters. It was hammered home that my word should be true and that the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do to you) was still the best practice for life. The most important factor in my catching this concept was not just that people told me it was important. It sank in to my hard teenage head because the people who talked it lived it out.

Maybe that's why this message doesn't travel very far with many people today. We've got too many people saying one thing while actively living another. All around we watch as double standards are acted out on a daily basis. It starts with our government and permeates everything around us--our entertainment, our athletics, our educators and our relationships.

If you are as frustrated as I am with trying to raise kids in this kind of culture, you've probably been scratching your head in a search for the best way to make a change. How do you teach your kids to stand in the face of all the--dare I say it--hypocrisy that threatens to drown us all?

My answer? One heart at a time, starting with mine. Just like with the people who mentored and taught me, I cannot ask my kids to do something I'm not willing to do. My four children will never learn these truths if I don't live it out for them. I must be the one who is willing to speak truth, live with commitment and practice a Godly standard. This isn't magic, people. It's common sense. Unfortunately, such common sense is a rare commodity today. So here are the things I want my kids to know:

* Lying is wrong. Truth may be uncomfortable, but it's always right and never out of style.
*Commitment is good. Rather than preventing our freedom, it enhances it.
*Promises are meant to be kept. Once you make a vow, you better do your part to keep it.
*Hard work is awesome. If you want something, go out and earn it. Hand-outs suck away your will to do anything.
*Saving is good. Just because you have a dollar doesn't mean you have to spend it. In fact, if we would all learn the 10/20/70 principle, our economy would thrive. (The first 10% goes to God. The next 20% is to be saved. We learn to live off the 70%)
*Friendships are to be treasured...not used for some other purpose. True friends stick with others in the hardest of times.
*Family is forever. I don't like everything my family does. Guess what? They don't like everything I do. But we're still family.
*God is the most important thing. The world may tell you differently (they will 100 times a day) but God's plan for your life is the only one that matters. You and I live for an "audience of One."

I hope my kids get it. Heck, I hope I do. Because, in the end, God isn't worried about our comfort and convenience; He is worried most about our character (thanks to Rick Warren for that reminder).


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dating again

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

I wasn't sure I wanted to date again. Well...that's not true. I had hated dating in high school. I knew I didn't want to date again. But I was still a little unsure about the marrying part. The daddy in me was torn because I wanted my kids to have a mom but I also didn't want to "expose" them to just anybody. Sarah had been such a wonderful mom, I was worried about undoing all that she had invested in them.

The man in me knew that being single and alone was hard, would be even harder once the kids were gone. But I also knew that I had two bigger priorities in my life--my kids and my new church.

So, when I finally got to the place where I was "comfortable" with dating, I embraced the opportunity with all the excitement of a root canal. One friend, early on, warned me about what was to come. He said, "Beware of women bearing casserole dishes." I should have listened. To this day, I believe that many of the dates had nothing to do with me or my personality or my character. They had everything to do with my job title.

You wouldn't believe the number of ladies I met where it became very apparent that they thought "Pastor Ridley" could fix their lives. Some were from broken marriages that had very ugly pasts. Others just had bad pasts that had left them broken. And as much as my personality wanted to fix every one of their problems for them, I had to be reminded that I was still in need of healing myself. So were the children.

I think that's why finding Lisa was so refreshing. Yes, Lisa had a broken past with some really ugly parts to it. Yes, there were parts of her background that weren't "just right." But unlike many of the other ladies (please notice I said "many" not "all"), she didn't come to me to see if I could fix her. She came to me because Someone else had already begun that healing for her. She dated Jesus first before she ever stepped out of the house to look for a new partner. Somewhere along the way, she rightly determined that she could never date another man until she was completely consumed with Jesus. It's a lesson she is still teaching our daughters to this day.

I thank God for that. Her relationship with God was what drew me to her and convinced me that she was the kind of person I could spend my life with, trust my kids with and partner in ministry with. Dating was a nightmare. But it ended in a dream come true because she needed Him more than she will ever need me. I pray it stays that way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's

One of the verses I quote often as I speak is Galatians 6:9.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

The meaning of this verse is not hard to comprehend...a long-term, continued effort to do good in our lives is hard but it will not go unnoticed by God nor will it go unrewarded with time. It's very seldom an easy to thing to do "good." As I tell my kids often, if doing good were easy, everyone would do it.

But this verse took a slightly different application as I read it during my quiet time earlier today. It is, after all, Valentine's Day. It is a day set aside to build the coffers of florists, card distributors, chocolate providers and restaurants. But that's a blog for another time.

It's also a day we set aside to do something good that we really should be doing all year long...letting people we love know how much we care.

My mind was drawn to my three daughters. (Now, before you jump to conclusions, I tell my wife numerous times every day how much I love her and my son does not go one day of his life without hearing me tell him I love him as well).

I simply think girls today have a unique challenge. They are brought up in a culture that repeatedly sends this message: anything less than perfect cannot be accepted. As a young female, you are expected to be talented like Taylor Swift, as smart as Condoleezza Rice (you were expecting another female), as beautiful as Catherine Zeta Jones, as athletic as Brandi Chastain...you get the picture.

That's why I believe that one of the "good" things I am expected to do for my daughters is to tell them how perfect they already are. They were created in the image of God, given unique personalities, incredible gifts and wonderful talents. To be anything else besides what they were created to be would be to spit in the face of the Artist who gave them life. I cannot grow weary in doing this because there is a chorus of voices telling them they are too short, too dumb, too goofy or too clumsy.

My words to them? They are too beautiful, too gorgeous, too just right for me to desire them any other way. And, if I don't grow weary in sending that message to them, what I reap in return is an incredibly beautiful, Godly young woman who believes that--with God's help--she can change this world. That's worth every ounce of investment I make in them (and in Lisa and Harrison too).

Here's a word of encouragement today. Let today be the first day of a million that you express your love and support of those God has put into your family. The person you "reap" on the other end will blow you away...and just might change your whole world.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Riggers

Sitting at home as we "enjoy" snow day number 124...give or take a day or two. Actually, it wouldn't be so bad working from home every day if it weren't for the three kids who are running in and out (with their friends as well). They are more than a little distracting, especially when I'd rather be playing the Wii or in the snow with them. Anyway, got an e-mail from a new friend of mine who works in the health care industry. It was great so I thought I'd share it with you. (Thanks, Carole).

Carl Quintanilla of CNBC’s Squawk Box was on the road last week, broadcasting segments from across the United States. At the break of dawn on Friday morning, he was in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A quick segment about US Army Parachute Riggers caught my ear…

Parachute Riggers, as it is, prepare equipment and supply containers for airdrop and also pack and repair cargo and personnel parachutes. As part of training, the Rigger jumps with the chute they pack. And by tradition, Riggers are required to be prepared to jump with any parachute packed by a US Army Parachute Rigger…without checking the log book for the name of the Rigger who last prepared it!

Rigger’s take a pledge:

· I will keep constantly in mind that until men grow wings their parachutes must be dependable.

· I will pack every parachute as though I am to jump with it myself, and will stand ready to jump with any parachute which I have certified as properly packed.

· I will remember always that the other man's life is as dear to him as mine is to me.

· I will never resort to guesswork, as I know that chance is a fool's gold and that I, a rigger, cannot depend on it.

· I will never pass over any defect, nor neglect any repair, no matter how small, as I know that omissions and mistakes in the rigging of a parachute may cost a life.

· I will keep all parachute equipment entrusted to my care in the best possible condition, remembering always that little things left undone cause major troubles.

· I will never sign my name to a parachute inspection or packing certificate unless I have personally performed or directly supervised every step, and am entirely satisfied with all the work.

· I will never let the idea that a piece of work is "good enough" make me a potential murderer through a careless mistake or oversight, for I know there can be no compromise with perfection.

· I will keep always a wholehearted respect for my vocation, regarding it as a high profession rather than a day-to-day task, and will keep in mind constantly my grave responsibility.

· I will be sure – always.

That’s strong. And it has strong implications for us spiritually as we lock arms together in our spiritual journeys, holding each other accountable. Re-read the pledge above and think about it in these terms: what if the spiritual well-being of your friend/spouse/family member depended on you "packing their chute"--a.k.a. holding their arms up in spiritual battle? Would they sink or soar?


Looking at those who walk this journey with me and who count on me for accountability, I cannot assume. It's irresponsible for me to pass over any defect, nor neglect any repair, no matter how small, as I know that omissions and mistakes may send my friend into a spiritual tail-spin. We need each other. That's why we talk at Ridgeview, all the time, about doing life together. NONE of us are capable of doing it on our own. We all need spiritual "riggers" in our life who can catch us when we fall. I hope you are doing that for someone in your journey...and that you are counting on others to do the same for you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Pretending

It was the summer before my junior year of high school. The father of a teammate had called and asked if I would be interested in some part-time work to earn a little money. I was thrilled. Just like any high school boy, I needed some cash to fill up my car and to pay for my dates. So, I jumped at the chance to work at his full-service gas station (that should tell you how long ago this was).

I was thrown right into the fire at a place I didn't belong. I had no clue what I was doing. Pumping the gas was the easy part. I had that down with no problem. It was the other 75% of the work that was killing me. Replacing tires, changing oil, replacing belts--I wasn't even sure I could find half of that stuff on a car, much less fix it. I know I must have looked like a fool.

Recognizing my, er, "limitations", the owner of the station put me onto a simpler task. The station offered a car washing service where we would pick up and return your cars for you. So, one day, I arrived at the station to find this incredible, black Ford Cobra sitting in the washing area. This was the kind of car a teen age boy could dream of owning. It was amazing! I washed it quickly, making sure that she was shining like the sun. I hollered to Kevin's dad that she was finished. Then, the most amazing thing happened. He tossed me the keys and said, "Drive the car over to the hospital for me. It's a manual (stick-shift). Can you handle that?"

"Yes, sir!" I replied. What an idiot! I didn't have a clue. I had never even sat in the driver's seat of a stick-shift, much less driven one. And I sure didn't need to be driving this one. But the excitement of driving that car for all of my friends to see (remember, it was a smaaalll town) was just too much for my common sense. I was about to learn a valuable lesson.

The route from the station to the hospital took me around the square of the small town. I got her started and into first gear easily enough (I knew that much from watching my friend, Scott, drive his car). That's as far as I could go. I couldn't get her into second gear. Every time I tried, the car would just make this awful grinding noise.

Picture this...proud young man driving a high-powered sports car. He's about to round the square in the middle of the day when it's at its busiest. And he's driving this sleek machine in first gear...with an occasional grinding noise from his attempts to change the gears.

I was completely humiliated. I passed friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. There were kids passing me on their bicycles and farm trucks honking at me to pull over so they could pass. The three mile drive seemed like an eternity. But I was too proud to admit that I couldn't handle it on my own.

I lost more than my pride that day. I lost my job. But I learned an important lesson about integrity and pretending to know more than you really do. If I had just been man enough to say "no," I could have saved myself from all of the problems. But I chose otherwise.

There is nothing good about pretending to be something you're not. While you may look good riding down the road, the "grinding noises" will give away what's really on the inside. People will know you for who you really are. When the pressure gets intense, what is on the inside will begin to show. You'll lose more than you gain. You'll find nothing but frustration as you try to keep up a facade and pull off your hypocrisy. In the end, it always comes back to bite you.

I've since learned to drive a stick-shift and can find the dipstick on my engine to check my oil. I even think I regained my "cool points" before the summer came to an end. But the lessons on integrity from that summer have lingered to this day. I am who God made me. I should never apologize for being anything but that.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Trusting my kids to God

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

One of the important questions that faced me as we picked up the pieces that Spring was how I would parent my kids going forward. I had just buried one child, we had lost another a few years back to a miscarriage. So there were many thoughts rolling in my head about losing another child and trying to shelter them from everything.

I can't lie. There was a temptation to pull them close and not let them out of my sight. There was a strong desire to let no one else near them, to believe that I was the only one who could care for them like they needed to be cared for.

My sisters reminded me otherwise. I think it was at different times that they came to me (obviously led by God) and told me that "sheltering" the kids wasn't an option. They were right. I had to be reminded these kids aren't mine in the first place. God has entrusted them to me to care for them but ultimately they are His.

As their father, I can do everything I want to love them, guide them and protect them...but at the end of the day, it is all up to God. He is the one that cares for them most (based on how much I love them, I know He must love them beyond my comprehension). Leaving them in His hands--after I've done all I can do--is the best option for their future.

It was true then, it's still true.

I have to keep repeating that to myself as Harrison gets ready to drive. Have I taught him how to brake properly? How to put on a seat belt? Not to play the radio too loud or to look away from the road for too long? Those questions have replayed in my mind a thousand times this last year as he has worked on his driving.

Now, it's God's turn. I must do with Harrison (and my other three kids) what I did for both of them after the wreck. I must guide them, pray for them and then....turn them loose into the hands of an all-knowing, deeply compassionate God. He will take care of the rest.

Can I just encourage you to do the same with your kids? All of our kids go through junk. It's part of living on this earth. They may not have lost a mom or a brother but their junk is just as deep, just as painful. Maybe they didn't get picked for the team. Maybe their friends made fun of them. Maybe they failed at their first chance at something. Maybe mom or dad walked out a long time ago and they have made that a personal thing. Whatever your child faces, they should never have to face it alone. But it's not you they need. It's Jesus.

Give your children what they need to learn, to grow, to prosper. Then give them to God knowing His desires for them are far greater even than yours. (Ephesians 3:20).

Monday, February 07, 2011

Loving your leaders

There seems to be something going on in the Barron house. Strangely, it has hit Lisa and I at the same time. I don't know what name to give it nor can I give you all of the symptoms. But it has a striking resemblance to spiritual warfare.

This may shock you (or it may not) but pastors and their families go through this quite frequently. For years I have warned young men and women that when they decide to become leaders in the church, they put a bulls-eye on their back. They make themselves a prime target for the enemy. So, neither Lisa nor I are surprised when the enemy rears his ugly face and decides to strike.

What makes it hard is when he goes after both of us at the same time. If you were at RCC, you picked up on the "funk" yesterday. Lisa had a bad Saturday. I had a bad Friday. We both had a bad weekend. By the time I got to church yesterday, I was simply praying that God would get me from one minute to the next.

I can't tell you how much it meant to see the people who reached out to Lisa, who prayed for her and encouraged her. That's what leaders need when these dark moments come (and they WILL come). I want to encourage my non-Ridgie readers to think about what I just described to you as it relates to your pastor and other church leaders where you are. They need you. They need your prayers. They need your encouragement.

So as I sat here this morning thinking over the last 3-4 days, I started to think about my other friends in ministry. Guys who have invested in me and love me. Our church planters from Minnesota to North Dakota to Thailand. I thought about younger guys who I have tried to invest in. Each serves in leadership. Each fights their own personal battles as they follow after Christ. Each is dear to me.

I want to invite you to love on your church leaders today. It doesn't have to be extravagant. It won't cost you a thing. It may be as simple as an email to say you prayed for them. Maybe it's a cup of coffee. Maybe you can offer a compassionate ear as a leader's spouse finds a safe place to unload her worries and fears or to talk about his struggles. Whatever it is, remember, they are people too. They carry a tremendous burden for you and a huge responsibility before God. And, just like you, they need to do life in the community of other Christ followers.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17 NAS

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. 1 Samuel 12:23 NIV

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Respect

My son has been serving this year as the manager for the basketball team at the high school he attends. I've been very proud of the way he has served the coach and his players while balancing church and his school responsibilities. Of course, with those responsibilities and the necessary travel to away games, there have been some fairly late nights coming in from the school.

Inevitably, Harrison wants to come in and give me his version of a "Sportscenter recap" of the game. I have noticed a troubling trend in his recaps. Every game (this is not an exaggeration) Harrison has talked about the behavior of the crowds as much as he has about the game itself. There have been unsportsmanlike chants, throwing of items, "moonings", and the use of extreme language. The last game even required a police escort for referees leaving the gym.

So, last night on the way to church, I questioned Harrison about the behavior of these fans (not just from his high school but it seems like every opponent as well). He and a neighborhood kid that we take to church on Wednesdays began to recount Tuesday's game and the fan behavior. Then, an alarming statement came out of Harrison's mouth that was confirmed by the other boy. "Dad, that's just what fans are supposed to do. They are supposed to get on the ref and ride the other team."

Yikes! Since last night, I have thought about that statement (I quickly corrected the boys last night as we rode). Is this what we are teaching our kids...that appropriate behavior for a fan is to cuss vehemently at an official, even to the point of requiring police escorts? Maybe a harder question to answer is this, am I the reason Harrison believes this? Or is this a cultural thing that our society is teaching our children?

Don't get me wrong. I have been known to challenge a call or to "talk loudly" at the TV while watching my teams play. (Lisa would call it yelling but we all know that pastors don't do that). In my coaching days, I would stand my ground with officials when I felt like they were missing calls. But, I've always made a point to "reconcile" with them afterwards by thanking them and letting them know I appreciated their work (I've also spent many hours as the official in games from little league to college intramurals. I know what that feels like).

I clicked on the sports page this morning as the thoughts were still churning. I read as fan after fan blamed poor outcomes on officials, poor coaching and unfair conditions. While I, as a dad, have to take responsibility for my behavior, I think we all have a responsibility to think about our actions. Beyond just officials, I'm afraid our kids are learning that it is cool to question authority and even cooler if you can make those authority figures look like fools, all in the name of coming out on top. I see it every time I visit kids at the local school to do my mentoring. Even the prestige of being President of the U.S. no longer exempts you from the public ridicule.

If you are a teacher, coach, official, youth minister...you get the idea...you deserve better than bad behavior from poorly taught children. You deserve the respect that comes from bearing your title. You deserve to be treated as a human being. You deserve better than what I hear coming from the stands at the local high school. I'm one dad who is willing to try and make a difference. I just hope I'm not too late in demonstrating to my kids...it's just a game.

In the future, I hope I can scream "Go Dawgs!" without having to discredit myself with poor behavior. And, in some small way, maybe we can rebuild a culture where teens respect the wisdom that comes from age and experience.

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Hebrews 13:17

32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God Leviticus 19:32

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My first blizzard...almost

Lisa and I had the opportunity to be in Detroit this week for a speaking engagement. As we prepared for our trip on Sunday, we began to hear rumblings about a potential "weather event" in the upper Midwest, including the city of Detroit. Our plans called for us to fly up on Monday afternoon, speak Tuesday and Wednesday morning and then fly back on Wednesday afternoon.

Needless to say, the news was a little unsettling to Lisa--someone who doesn't enjoy the prospect of landing and taking off in good weather, much less two feet of snow.

But we packed and proceeded with our plans knowing that the event organizers would contact us if things needed to change because of the impending weather. Monday afternoon, we arrived at the airport in Nashville. About 25 minutes before we were to start boarding, my phone rang. It was the organizer wondering if we had boarded the plane yet. The short version was that they were worried about what was to come and wanted to know if we were willing to come and what our flexibility was like. I groaned. I really wanted to do the event but I also understood their concerns. As I told the lady at the Avis Rental counter in Detroit, "When the natives are restless about what's coming, it's not some place that a Southerner needs to be stuck."

Anyway, we went. We were only able to get one day of the conference in. We had a great time with the incredible people of St. John Providence Health Systems (the time was too short but great nonetheless) and we caught the last flight out of Detroit before the nastiness hit.

But it was a refreshing time, a great chance to listen to people who get what quality and excellence are all about. I was very pleased to listen to their leaders as time and time again they talked about two things: call and remembering that the bottom line is people.

Those are two very important things that would change the way that most of us look at our relationship with others, the way we see our churches, the way we understand our call to serve others. In the places we are placed, God has put a call on our lives. He desires us to serve this world with gifts and talents and personalities that are uniquely ours. We can never forget that--lost among the campaigns and blogs and tweets and programs and buildings--God simply loves people. At the end of the day, He asks us to do the same.

I'm glad to be safely back in Nashville where it's a balmy 28 degrees last time I checked. More important, I'm thankful for the reminder to us all--Jesus came for people. Then He asked us to set aside our desires and do the same.