Posts Tagged ‘Human Nature’

Big Decisions

Craig’s Cruisers is a western Michigan playland with mini-golf, go carts, water bumper boats, batting cage,s and token operated you-give-me-tokens-I-spit-out-tickets-that-are-worth-significantly-less-than-your-tokens games.  This is how we spent out morning.  Alex and I went to the batting cages so I could look like a big shot in the 40 mph little league cage (totally cranked out some huge home runs, by the way).  We stayed away from the high school speed and didn’t even consider the 80mph pro cages.

While we did this, Bis and Dana played token games and started collecting tickets.  After my macho hit parade, Alex and I joined the girls and played skeeball and shot hoops on the super-small basketball game that I could just stand over and drop the balls through the hoop.  We also tried our hand at games of luck that promised to give you hundreds of tickets if you could stop the flashing light at just the right time.  I couldn’t.

Then when all the fun was done and the tokens were gone we went up to the glass counter and traded in our tickets.  Bis had 115 and Alex had 78.  I swear it takes just about as long to decide what to do with the tickets as it does to win them.  The 19-year-old college student stood on the other side of the counter and waited and waited and waited while the kids deliberated and thought about this huge decision.  Do I get the cheap ring I’ll lose in the parking lot or do I get the gummy hamburger candy that will turn my mouth brown?  Turns out they had enough for both.

I tried joking with the kid behind the counter who looked very non-plussed over the amount of time the kids were taking.  “Super big decision here, right?”  He looked at me, obviously not catching the facetious tone, and said, “not really.”

I was enjoying their intensity in decision making, but the kid was bored.  How many times have I spent time worried about something that will really never matter – even though I am confident they are life-altering decisions.  I stood there watching them, kind of getting a kick out of it.  At the time I thought I wish I didn’t worry about such small things, but now, thinking about it…I’m glad I give great consideration to what may turn out to be a ring I lose in the parking lot.  How am I to know which is which?


Disney and Dice

In February, while it was cold and snowy in Michigan, my family travelled to Florida and spent a week at Disney.  At one of the parks there was a ride in a haunted hotel.  The ride was inside an elevator that mysteriously rose and then suddenly dropped to a random floor then rose and fell and rose and fell until your insides couldn’t decide whether inside or outside your body cavity was the right place to be.  My bride loves rides like that.  Me…not so much.  I know the ride will even out and we’ll step off the elevator to a nice, calm stable ground until the next ride, but…not knowing if the floor was going to drop out from underneath you at any moment – or whether or not you’ll surge upward causing all the blood in your body to fill your toes – these are not my favorite things.

Church planting can be like that ride.  We’ve been keeping track of attendance to give us a good idea of where we are and what the reality on the ground is.  One week it’s up to 93 then 48 then 78 then 67 then 80 then 54.  I’m in that ride all the time.  When there are 93 or 80 our space is too small, and it’s time to have two services.  When there are 48 or 54 we are fine in our renovated office space.  It can be frustrating for me not having an calm, smooth even uphill gradation of numbers.  Granted, summer in Michigan is spotty at best, and every pastor I talk to (even in an established church) has the same struggle.

Difference being that I am trying to lead our church into the next chapter of our story.  When someone walks into a room and there are no seats for them, what’s to keep them from saying to themselves, “Selves, there’s not room for us here” or “Selves, I don’t think they need us here.”  On those weeks one of those statements is true, the other not.  We don’t have room on those days, but we do need them.

The answers lay before us: move to a bigger space and risk having 60 people in a big old hollow space on a given week; move to two services and roll the dice (not a very reformed thing to say) with what happens.  I am leaning toward rolling the dice because I know who’s rolling them, and he already knows (in fact commands) the outcome.


June 15, 2011 2 comments

We’re easing into summer in West Michigan.  One day warm the next cold the next after that really hot and muggy.  Can’t make up its mind around here.  I’m ok with that.  The day I’m remembering was a really hot day.  I’m driving in the family van on my way to a meeting at our parent church about parent church things.  The meeting has very little to do with Embody, but I go because I want to stay connected to the folks over there.

In front of my van is an SUV with the window down.  And I see a frequent flick of cigarette ashes out the window.  Too frequent, I think.  So I start to count how many seconds between each time this person sticks their butt out the window.  Flick.  6 seconds.  Flick.  9 seconds.  Flick.  4 seconds.  Flick. 14 seconds.  Flick.  10 seconds.  Flick.  6 seconds.  I’m not making this up, I remember the numbers.  Now I’m starting to do the math in my head…that averages to about 8 seconds a flick. 

Through my mind I start to wonder about this person.  Mind you I’m still completely focused on their flicking.  I’m wondering if they are finding time to suck on that cigarette between each flick.  I’m also wondering how long that thing will last, and how long it would take them to light up another one.  Would they wait for a red light?  Would the use the dying cig to start the next one?  How would they do that with the responsibility of driving?  And that brings me to it…

The thing that is really bothering me is not that this person is smoking a cigarette.  I’ve had a few in my time (sorry to break it to you, mom).  So I’m not judging them on that.  As I’m thinking through all these questions the one that really starts to get my knickers in a twist is that it seems entirely too dangerous to be smoking in such a flick-often fashion while driving.  It must distract them from paying attention, right?

They get to South Washington and turn right.  I continue on 32nd to my meeting, and it strikes me: I haven’t been paying attention to my driving.  I’ve been watching so intently the frequency of this person’s ash flicking that I’ve been on autopilot.  Guess it’s safer to drive with your butt in your mouth than with this plank in my eye.

Categories: Friday Mornings, Ranting Tags:

From 2 to 17…no 18…ope…back to 17…ope…drivethrough now

Carol, proprietress (is that a word?) of The Way Cup Cafe, and I sit alone on a rainy Spring day.  It’s 9:36 and it happens like it does every weekday at about 9:35 or so.  This place goes from dead to an explosion of people and noise and busy for Carol.  There’s a big house being built down the street and a caravan of workers come here for their break.

Carol loves it and frequently sings the praises of Dick De Vos who is building his house and has been doing so for the last two years.  I say house, but…you know it’s more like a mansion.  I have no problems with it.  In the middle of the economic downturn that hit Michigan in a way it hit nowhere else that house has kept literally hundreds of families afloat in our area.

And Carol.

She goes into a flurry of activity and I can’t work because it gets loud and raucus and 15 guys are on break.  So…I take a break.  I’ve gotten to know a couple of these guys, and it’s led to a couple great conversations.  Someone walks in the door, sees the throng, and turns around to leave.  Then, while Carol is in the kitchen someone shows up at the drivethrough.  “Drivethrough, Carol!” one of the guys yells.  “Handle it!” she yells back.  And he does.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have his Food Handler’s Permit, but I’m guessing nobody cares.  He does handle it.

And there’s someone missing something.  It’s the guy who came in, saw the crowd and left.  If he’d waited a couple minutes, enjoyed the atmosphere of joviality, practiced a little patience, and taken a break along with everyone else (save Carol) he would have received more than java and a bagel.  He would have gotten the blessing available in surprise community.

Break is over and the men leave all together.  Carol stands over the cash register trying to figure out how her drivethrough window helper might have handled giving back correct change.  Then it’s back to just her and me. She sits down and smiles.  I know what’s going through her mind…”Thank God for Dick De Vos” or something like that.  I say, “Thank God for sudden community and the ability to go with the flow – to see it for what it is: not an inconvenience, but a bonus.”

Categories: Kingdom of God Tags: ,

Back Again

May 6, 2011 2 comments


Like Bunnies

At the foot of my driveway is a fir tree, big, round, and tall with branches that sweep the ground.  Now that it’s getting warmer, the kiddos will be riding bikes.  So, I decided to trim up the bottom 4-5 feet of branches to give better visibility.

My neighbor told me that the mystery flowers next to the tree are irises, and that the increased sunlight will be good for them.  You know what else the sunlight will be good for?  The other thing growing there: garlic mustard. 

When the settlers came to West Michigan they brought with them garlic mustard.  It is one of the first things up in the spring and makes a great pesto, so I’m told.  It’s a leafy green that smells a little like garlic and not a bit like mustard.  It doesn’t belong in this environment.  In fact it’s detrimental to the environment.  Garlic mustard sends chemicals from its roots that kill other plants in its vacinity.  Oh, and it loves to spread.  It’s like the bunny rabbit of weeds.

Every year I pull them, and every year they come back.  They are super easy to pull – getting all the roots isn’t even very difficult.  So I’m baffled.  Why, when I pull everything up before they seed (and am sure to get all the roots), do they keep coming back?  Why are they so easy to pull and so hard to get rid of?  Why do they spread so easily?  Why can’t I defeat these invasive little beasts?  Why is sin the same way?

Osama Response

May 2, 2011 13 comments

10 hours after hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden my response is rather confused.

I see the television scenes of crowds gathering in significant settings (Ground Zero, White House, Etc.).  They are jubilant and full of joyful celebration over something.  I think the confused part of my response comes from the question: “What are they jubilant about?”  Is it the death of a mass murderer?  Is it the completion of a national goal?  Is it the adrenaline rush of revenge?  Is it the breaking of an emotional dam?

Laying in my bed, watching the initial report last night, I heard the news and had an instant response of adrenaline and was confused by it.  You see I recently preached through the book of Esther.  Toward the end of that story the bad guy, Haman, gets trapped and is hung on his own gallows while the man he built the gallows for watches.  In that particular sermon we explored the feeling of joy we have in the execution of justice.  I felt odd about it then, too.  Why am I happy about the death of another human?  Deserving?  I can’t deny it.

I don’t begrudge anyone who is excited and feeling happy today in light of the completion of one of our nation’s longest manhunts.  I can’t imagine the relief that must be felt by those who have lost a loved one in one of this man’s terrorist attacks.  And I DO feel like some justice has been meted out.

I guess it comes down to this: I think I’m sad.  Sad that it has all come to this.  Sad that men turn to bloodshed over words.  Sad that humanity has strayed so far from our original purpose.  Sad that I feel some happiness over someone’s demise.  Sad that I can’t jump up and down with the throng.  Sad that I’m of two minds instead of clear-headed and unidirectional in my emotions.  I think I’m sad that my initial response is to picture Osama on a brimstone elevator heading downward.  Sad that I don’t hope mercy upon him.  But I don’t.  I’m conflicted.  And in the middle of all the sad there is one happy note:

I’m happy that I’m not in charge of justice.  I’m happy that I’m not the judge.  I can pass that buck up the ladder to the One who is clear-headed over the whole matter.  I feel relief that I can trust this whole matter (and the matter of what happens to me at my end) to the One who is an incomprehensible combination of Justice and Mercy.

Two Hobbies (Part 1)

April 27, 2011 2 comments

I have two hobbies that I think I will tell you about.  One is the kind of goody-two-shoes hobbie that everyone expects from a pastor.  The other is just the opposite.  It’s the kind of thing I shouldn’t tell you about.  But I will.

First is smiling at people.  Now, that sounds super lame, but there’s a trick to it.  If you just walk around smiling at people they will hate you.  For instance, I walked into the post office on Tuesday to mail my mom’s Mother’s Day/Birthday present (yes, I did double duty on the gift…if you have a problem with that try having a birthday on December 23 and then complain to me) and tried doing it the wrong way.  I just walked through the whole place with a big ol’ grin on my face.  First, it probably looks a little creepy – someone smiling for no apparent reason, especially at a post office.  I got looks from people.  They were the looks that said, “Hey, pal, what do you have to smile about?  You think your life is so great?  Better than mine?  Probably, but now I hate you.”

So, that’s the wrong way to do it.  The right way can actually be pretty great.  (Warning: if you try to do the following without meaning it, you can be perceived to be a pervert or suicide bomber.)  You have to, in your mind and heart wish the best for someone, then make eye contact and a split second after making eye contact you have to generate a very real smile.  The smile has to say, “I see you, and I think that if we were to take the time to talk to one another we would like each other.”  I would say that 92.5 percent of the time that I properly execute that kind of smile I get one in return, and I’m willing to bet that it surprises A LOT of people that they smile or that a stranger gave them that smile.  Try it, but you have to mean it or you’ll come off really creepy.

Ok, the other hobby.  I’ll put that in the next post.  I promise.  But, I’m telling you that if you have some semblance of a good picture in your mind about me it will be shattered when you find out what I like to do (It’s nothing creepy).  So, if you want to keep thinking I’m a stand-up guy, don’t read Part 2.