Here’s to Hope

Hope Rescue Mission, now Hope Ministries, has been a part of the South Bend community for a long time – and I have never really paid much attention to it, with the exception of the annual canned food drive my kids have participated in at school.

But nine months ago or so my brother ended up at Hope.  I probably should mention that he went there to become their director of spiritual development – and that started my relationship with the mission.  He invited my small group to be a part – now once each month part of our group meets with some of the residents of Hope for a small group Bible study. 

 It’s been great.  We usually start with the brownies – nothing quite like brownies to get you in gear spiritually.  Then we break into “huddles” and work through a Bible study guide.  I  love getting side by side with the people from Hope and digging in, and I get pumped just listening to what they find.  Some great stuff.  I think every month I walk away encouraged by them – and by how seriously they take their faith.

Two things about Hope are big to me.  The first is that they have a grace-based focus.  People who come to Hope aren’t given a list of rules “to follow or else” – no, the emphasis is on God changing people from the inside out, so the program is designed to focus on heart issues.  And grace.

The other thing that gets me excited is the way that Hope helps people work through the fact that their thinking impacts the choices that they make.  When problems come up, the residents are encouraged to revisit their choices and what led to those choices.  By changing their thinking, they can change behaviors.  Good stuff for all of us who want to change.

The result?  People’s lives are being turned around at Hope.  Want to hear a few of the stories?  Click the link to Hope and check out the good stuff God is doing there.

One last thought- and this is a statement that comes from my brother:  “There really isn’t any difference between the people here at Hope and the people who live in Granger – they’re all broken.  But the people at Hope are willing to admit it and get help.”

Trapeze Artists (and me)

In his book If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get out of the Boat, John Ortberg talks about Harry Nouwen, and Nouwen’s friendship with some trapeze artists:

“…there is a very special relationship between the flyer and the catcher.  As the flyer is swinging high above the crowd, the moment comes when he lets go of the trapeze, when he arcs out into the air.  For that moment, which must feel like an eternity, the flyer is suspended in nothingness.It is too late to reach back for the trapeze.  There is no going back now.  However, it is too soon to be grasped by the one who will catch him.  He cannot accelarate the catch.  In that moment, his job is to be as still and motionless as he can. 

‘ The flyer must never try to catch the catcher,’ the trapeze artist told Nouwen.  ‘ He  must  wait in absolute trust.  The catcher will catch him.  But he must wait.  His job is not to flail about in anxiety.  In fact, if he does, it could kill him.  His job is to be still.  To wait.  And to wait is the hardest work of all.’

“You may be in the vulnerable moment right now – you have let go of what God has called you to let go of, but you can’t feel God’s hand catching you yet.  Will you wait in absolute trust?  Will you be  patient?  Waiting requires patient trust.”

Is it “God’s will” that I post this?

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, which means several things.  One, I have been to more potluck dinners than any kid should ever have to go to.  Two, I know just about every verse of most hymns (even the 3rd verse which usually was sung by “just the ladies”).   And three, I have heard more sermons on finding God’s will than the average person has seen “Giligan’s Island” episodes.

But even after all these messages, I still have some questions about this God’s will thing that I would like to ask…

  1. When did finding God’s will become the equivalent of some big cosmic game of hide and seek?  Is God really trying to keep it a secret from us that He only reveals to the super pious who stay up all night begging God to at least give them a hint?  Or is it something that He would like all of His followers to know if at all possible?  I’m voting for the latter.  That would mean that God wants us to know what He wants, and that He is more likely to make it obvious than obscure, right?
  2. Is finding God’s will all about finding the perfect path?  Or could there be more than one “perfect” path?  Think with me for a minute – what happens if God’s perfect will is for Pam to marry Peter?  That would mean that it’s also His perfect will for Peter to marry Pam, but what if he marries Sue?  Doesn’t that leave Pam in the lurch because she can no longer marry Peter (unless, or course, she is Mormon, but then we have some other theological issues to debate besides this one), thus she can no longer be in God’s perfect will.  Say she marries Frank who was supposed to marry Anita who was supposed to marry Ed who was supposed to marry Nora who was supposed to marry Bill.  Now the whole world is messed up, and it gets even more complicated when all these people starting having kids because they weren’t even supposed to be here in the first place, so how in the world can they ever hope to marry the perfect person?
  3. Could it be that we may actually have options when it comes to God’s will?  I went to one college, but I think it might have been ok if I went to another.  Would that have been ok?  And if it wasn’t, but I earnestly prayed about what God wanted and sought counsel and followed the other 12 steps every Christian should follow to find God’s will – would God have been big enough to get me to the one right college if He needed to?
  4. Is everything that happens to Christians God’s will?  Or do some things happen because we live in a world where men still have a free will and where sin is still prevalent?  For instance, if I walk down the street and get mugged, is that God at work in my life?  I realize He can still use it for good, but was he responsible for my getting beat up?  And if I have a situation that doesn’t work out in my life, did God do it to me?  And if Sue was supposed to marry me, but married Bob – was that God’s will for me?  I’m kind of confused.  Any bad thing that comes my way – am I just supposed to smile and take it and assume that it was God at work?
  5. Doesn’t God’s will have far more to do with the person we become than path that we follow?  At the end of the day don’t you think that God is going to be more concerned with my heart and my character than my address or make of car?
  6. Wouldn’t we be just as well off if we put our biggest effort into discerning what God’s Word is teaching?  I’m fairly certain that I am supposed to be honest, and that I am supposed to love others, and that I am supposed to love God with all of my heart, and that I am supposed to walk humbly because that’s what it says in the Bible.  And isn’t God more concerned that I discern that kind of stuff?  If I get that right, won’t I be in good shape?  And if so, wouldn’t it make sense that I spend more time in Bible study about a decision than I do in prayer about it – not that I don’t think I should pray?

Those are my questions.  And just in case you’re wondering, I’m already leaning towards some answers.

Anyone for a game of…

I loved playing games when I was a kid – and I still do.  I have great memories of playing Monopoly as a kid – and of trying to convince my sister that she should trade her Boardwalk for my Mediterranean (after all, housing was more affordable to her that way).  And how about the forever long games of Risk during the college years?

Some of those games I had growing up still live in my basement.   And sometimes I find myself begging my kids to play a game with me (isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?).

These are my five favorites in my basement right now.  And the best part is, none of them needs batteries or a charger.

games 003Qwirkle – kind of a cross between Scrabble and dominoes; it’s played with color tiles that score you points


pros:
  takes about 30 minutes to play; you can get behind and still make a comeback; the playing field looks really cool; it calls for up to 4 players, but you can add more if you want

cons:  it takes more luck than skill (unless, of course, you are the winner), play is in turn, so slower players can really slow the game down (no names will be mentioned here)

games 004Blokus – players try to place all of their tiles onto a playing grid, while other players attempt to do the same thing


pros:
  plays in about 20 minutes; lots of options on each play; requires some planning

cons:  claims to be a strategy game, but you are playing against 3 other players at the same time often making your strategy pretty much useless

games 002Labrinyth – it’s a kid’s game, but it’s fun.  You try to work your way through a dungeon(maze) that continually shifts and slides


pros:
  plays quickly;  playing board constantly changes; good for people who are highly spacial (which is why my 10 year old usually can beat me)

cons:  see the last comment in parentheses

games 001Landslide – a classis Parker Brothers board game from the 70’s based on winning the electoral college in a presidential election


pros:
  a good mixture of strategy and luck; provides for lots of arguments (er, discussions) as players have to make decisions that affect other players; the outcome isn’t usually decided until right at the end

cons:  usually takes 1+ hours to play; can only be purchased on ebay (and not cheap)

games 005Twixt – another classic from the past, players take turns inserting posts and building bridges across a grid while attempting to prevent the opponent from doing the same

pros:  plays in 15-20 minutes, total strategy – no luck

cons:  only 2 people can play; another game you can only buy on ebay

Those are my top five for now, but I’m always on the look out for good games – new or vintage.

Thoughts on driving

It’s nice to have friends.  It’s even nicer when your friends are big and burly and South Bend cops – like Randy.  Yesterday, he and I were having lunch and discussing how hard it is at times to trust God.  Then Randy said something like this:  “High speed chases really aren’t scary – I can handle doing 50 mph down alleys, 75 on the street, or 90 on the highway.  The only time it bothers me is when my partner is driving, and not me.  That scares me.”

It reminded me of this passage in the Message in Mark 8:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.”

Right now I’m riding in the passenger seat because that’s the only seat that seems to be available to me.  And I wish I could say that it’s not really that scary.  But it is since I can’t control where we’re are going – and I’ve not been asked to take a turn at the wheel.  The hard part is that I need to be ok with it.  Somewhere down deep inside me I know that God is a better driver than I am.  He’s not about to lose control – so I just need to hang on and let God show off His driving skills.  I’m trying.  I just hope He doesn’t notice the white knuckles.

You can never overcommunicate

truck signTook this picture just a few blocks from my house.  I’m assuming that by adding the second sign, truck drivers are no longer getting lost.  I sure hope not.

Maybe they need to put another sign (or two) underneath: “Your tax dollars at work.”

The Rise and Fall of the Veggie Empire

A while back Allie brought home a book from the library – “Me, Myself and Bob.”  It’s Phil Vischer’s telling of the whole Veggie Tales story.  Now I have always been a big fan of Larry and Bob, and the fact that they were in their prime at the same time my kids were little was extremely fortunate for me.  I don’t watch them anymore.  It’s kind of embarassing when Veggie Tales is on and I’m the only one in front of the TV.

In the book Vischer tells of his big dream of being one of the top four animation companies in the world (think Disney, Nickolodeon) – and Christian to boot.  And Big Idea was heading that direction – until everything fell apart.  That’s not supposed to happen when you are doing big things for God.  And that is the point that Vischer makes – we need to be careful about dreaming big dreams of doing great things for God.  Does that sound wrong?

Maybe not, but contrast it to the idea of God doing big things through us.  It sounds almost the same – but it’s not.  Not even close.  Our culture is all about what we can accomplish through hard work, innovation, salesmanship, etc.  – but I’m not sure it’s just what God’s culture is about.

Jesus said, “Follow me.”  That would seem to indicate that the agenda is driven by God, that the dreams are His, and that any success along the way is simply due to obedience – and to responding to God’s leading in life.  That sounds good to me.  It’s just easier said than done.

Vischer has formed a new company called Jellyfish.  The Big Idea on that?  Jellyfish can’t go anywhere on their own.  They are dependent on the current.  And that’s a great picture of what it means to follow Christ.

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