Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Living Like We Mean It

Yesterday was the most fun playing golf I've had in a long time. Which was curious, considering how hot it was out there. But I was relaxed, I struck the ball well, the guys I played with were good company, and I finished with an awesome par save from deep trouble well off the fairway.

My putting was several shades of awful! But I made up for it by scrambling. I also put a ball in the lake on two holes on the back nine, resulting in a couple of sevens.

But my best moment was on the #1 handicap hole, where I left my drive in the rough adjacent to a sand trap. I had to stand, too close to the ball, perched on the edge and with my heels hanging over the bunker. Somehow I managed to launch a six-iron around 170 yards; it landed close to the pin and my birdie putt stopped about three-inches short.

I believe the way I play golf is a decent metaphor for my life. My "success" is best measured in terms of the integrity of the process, my "might as well enjoy this" attitude, the fact that I'm genuinely thankful for all the opportunities I have, and a growing commitment to apply the principles of faith to absolutely everything I do.

It doesn't really matter if a shoot under 80... or if I leave 50% of my putts well short... or if I hit a boat-load of awesome drives. And - likewise - it doesn't matter if my books sell thousands of copies... or I ever win another AMY... or if I'm invited to speak at choice events.

I like the admonition in First Thessalonians:"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

Being sanctified is living like we mean it - because God does; it's taking each day and embracing whatever we're up to as another opportunity to live as if we really are redeemed people; it's being thankful and forgiven and blessed, and it's engaging life in the fact of those dramatic truths.

My 87 was pretty darned good for an infrequent golfer. But I wouldn't have had a better day - couldn't have - even if I'd shot 70. The way I play is the way I live - it's process-oriented, not results-oriented. I am faithful because God is faithful, and I'm enjoying the journey.

I really am a pilgrim on this amazing road. And I really am making progress.
Grace and Peace - DEREK

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hustle - the can't miss ingredient for full-time faith

It occurred to me recently that I almost never write about sports. Which is curious considering my virtual obsession with all things games when I was a child. I played everything I could and every game I could get in on. If a ball was involved, I was there.

Fortunately for me, it turned out that I had decent hand-eye coordination and a lot of speed. By the time I was a teenager I was a shoe-in for "first team" in every game my school sponsored. Soccer in the fall (that was "autumn" in England), field-hockey in the spring, cricket in the summer. I was also the "star" of high school track and field. I set scoring records in cricket and speed standards in track that held up for years.

Maybe that's why I've held off on sports metaphors for the most part since I've been a writer. I've always found the "Guys need sports stories or they won't listen in church" idea insulting to the intelligence and spiritual aptitude of men. A lot of the "locker room for Jesus" back-slapping, towel-snapping, football-as-religion talk tends to be chauvinistic, and feeds seamlessly into our cultural predilection toward sexist male-dominant religion.

But the other day - reading about yet another Tampa Bay baseball win - I read a comment by Rays manager Joe Maddon that fits beautifully with my thinking about "Living as if we mean it."

The game was another 1-run victory, squeezed out of a contest that could have gone either way. The result was achieved by pure grit. One of the Rays had put the team in position to win by hustling an in-field single, picking up an extra base on a hit-and-run, and then sliding face-first into home on a sacrifice bunt.

"It takes no talent whatsoever to hustle," Maddon said. "There's no kind of ability involved in hustling."

So here's my VERY RARE sports illustration. Most of the time our commitment to a full, rich, complete life - living like we mean it - is 90% hustle. It doesn't take any talent to live that way. It's not as if God has gifted some of us with a natural proclivity to enjoy life and "too bad about the rest of you."

No - if I'm living like I mean it today, it's because I got up this morning hustling. It doesn't take talent - it takes faithfulness and commitment. We can all be there.

Let's do it!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An answer to the fragmented life

I listened in on some helpful conversation this Sunday, teaching a three week class on "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian."

We explored the essential concept of the book, which is "Live as if we mean it, because God most certainly does." The conversation moved around the feeling that our life here in North America is very much fragmented - chopped up into bits that often don't even overlap. We wear so many hats and then become confused as to who we're even supposed to be much of the time. The result is tension, inconsistency, and a severe lack of effectiveness in terms of living any kind of a convincing Christian witness.

What God wants for us is unity. God wants us to be and act as God's children 100% of the time. There's never any doubt as to who we are or how we're supposed to be because everything funnels through the filter of Jesus.

I like the way Paul writes about life in 1 Timothy. Here's a key verse.

[You] are to do good, be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for [your]selves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [you] may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:19)

Or, as I wrote in my daily blog this morning: "THE LIFE THAT REALLY IS LIFE SPEAKS FOR ITSELF".

Click on "comment" below, and let me know what you're thinking.
- Peace and blessings - DEREK

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let's Get Serious!

There's a hopeful sense of emergent interest budding around the United States in response to "The Unmaking of a Part Time Christian". Here and there, small pockets of thoughtful pilgrims are reading, talking and gathering together to get some conversation going about what it means to be a Jesus-follower in this 21st Century.

Sales are still - best I can determine - just a trickle. But, every time I get out and speak about the book, there's an enthusiastic response that - I believe - is speaking to the heart of a serious issue that is at the heart of the stagnation so many main-line Christian churches are experiencing here in North America.

And that issue is a failure to fully engage the message of Jesus and a reluctance to allow the Living Word to transform our lives and to disturb us in ways that lead to the counter-cultural witness the must define a Follower of the Way in 20th Century America.

So here's the challenge, in this short blog post for this week. Every time you read one chapter of "The unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" do this: Ask God to speak to your heart and then implement one noticeable change in your life in response to the words you just read.

Better yet, do this with some other disciples. Add accountability to the process. Then see how God will transform you, your spiritual life, and the world around you.

Many blessings, as you continue on the journey - DEREK