Be Like Mike!

In 1992, Gatorade developed a commercial highlighting the basketball icon, Micahel Jordan.  The song associated with the commercial repeatedly said, “I wanna be like Mike.”  The concept and quote spread and those 3 words were used often when any young (or old) basketball player would do some sort of impressive maneuver.

Imitating professionals athletes is something every young man or young lady has done at some point in their young life.  I remember as a young baseball player, I would mimic certain players in the climatic events of the game.  Outfielder running to the fence, jumping to catch a fly ball robbing the batter of a game winning home run.  Or how about  this . . .  bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, 2 strikes, down by 3 and basses were loaded and of course, you’re up to bat.  Setting up for the game winning, walk-off grand-slam.  Can anyone who grew up playing sports relate to this?

Why am I writing about this today?  Well, as a kid, we do our best to imitate our heroes on the field or on the court.  Every young athlete wants to play in the big game.  Every young musician wants to be in a band.  But, as adults, somewhere along the line we “grow up” and stop emulating the heroes of our youth.  The reality is you can apply this to any aspect of life.  We see successful people in a certain area of life or ministry and we may respect them or look up to them, but how often do we mimic them.  Recently, I came across a video from a Kobe Bryant basketball clinician that talked about the basketball superstar Steph Curry before anyone knew his name.  If you want to see the whole video, you can check it out here.  The one thing he mentioned that I’d like to bring up here is this.

“Success is a choice – Are the habits you have today on par with the dreams you have for tomorrow?”

Not only should we replicate the actions of our heroes in the public but we must mimic their behavior in preparation.  I’ve heard many times over the years, I wish I had a ministry like such and such public figure.  I often respond with, if you’re willing to do what they did to get to that point in their ministry, you can have that too.  As a director of musical productions, I know many people would love to simply perform when the crowds come but if you don’t spend hours and hours in rehearsal and preparation, you’ll never get to the point of having an excellent performance.

As I wrap up, even though the purpose of the gatorade commercial was drink Gatorade and be like Michael Jordan . . . because he drinks Gatorade.  The implications of those words, Be Like Mike, took a much larger meaning for many young athletes.  (For what it’s worth here’s the 1992 commercial.)

My challenge today is actually both practical and spiritual in nature.  You can look at many spiritual leaders today and attempt to be like them.  We may mimic how they speak or even how they dress.  But our spiritual heroes will always fall short of the ultimate spiritual hero – Jesus.  So, in reference to this blog post, don’t only look at the messages Jesus taught on the mountain top, but look at the preparation in prayer Jesus established in the wilderness.  Then when we say I want to be like Jesus, we understand fully what that means.  Be excellent in the prep as well as the performance.  Be blessed and go “Be Like Jesus.”

Above and Beyond

These words are often used when one does a task or job better than what was expected of them.  Phrases such as, “Our waitress went above and beyond expectations tonight at dinner.”  In this scenario, this  behavior is typically rewarded with a great tip.  At one time or another, we’ve all heard these words, most of us have probably said them but how many of us have them said about us?

Over the past few years, I have read articles, blogs, and even some books by great thinkers and innovators of our culture.  One characteristic I see in every one of them is their willingness to go above and beyond what’s required.  You don’t see big dreams become a reality by simply punching a time-clock from 9-5.  You don’t see ideas that will change a culture by only doing what’s required.   Don’t get me wrong, many people do that and are fulfilled in doing so.  But, if you’re a dreamer, if you desire to be an innovator, then it is essential that you go above and beyond.

You may ask, “What does that look like in every day life?”   Simple – start where you are.  Develop a mentality to do more than the task or job description details.  If your job is to file papers in their applicable folders, so so – plus volunteer to analyze and reorganize the file drawer.  Your task may be to shovel your walk.  Do so – plus bless your neighbor by shoveling theirs as well (That was a reference to my blog 01/24).  The reason I use that example is because this isn’t just about a job but it’s about life.    Jesus even teaches us about this during the sermon on the mount:

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (Matthew 5:41)

This is where we get the well known statement, “Going the extra (or second) mile.”  In the context in which Jesus teaches this, it also references when someone slaps you, turn the other cheek.  If someone sues you for your shirt, give him your coat as well.   Our logical (unspiritual) thinking is this is crazy.  But Jesus teaches and demonstrates how to go above and beyond.

We hear a lot today about the “participation trophy” given to everyone who participates rather than rewarding those who work harder to accomplish victory.  Listen, I am all about encouraging and appreciating those who do the job expected of them.  But, just like our waitress at the beginning of this blog, when you and I go above and beyond what’s required, you will see rewards come your way. . . financially, relationally and spiritually.  IMG_2425

As I wrap up, let’s not be one of those who just do what’s necessary to complete a given task, project or job.  Consider everything an opportunity to show your passion and potential.  Let this quote be your daily mantra.

Be blessed and go above and beyond what other’s think you should or think you can.

LENT – Why or why not?

Adhering to the Lenten season isn’t something I grew up with because it was thought of as a “religious tradition” that wasn’t necessary. I grew up and am still protestant and concepts of religion that requires certain acts was always thought to be “under the law” or “legalistic”.   So in my adult years, do I now think it is necessary as a follower of Christ? No. Is it beneficial? Yes. So with that being said, allow me to explain why I now adhere to basic tradition of Lent and encourage you, as a following of Jesus Christ, to do the same.

Traditionally, lent has a wide range of applicable actions such as ashes on the forehead, no meat on Fridays, one day a week of complete abstinence, giving of alms during this time . . . etc.  I’m not here to debate the validity of any of those external actions. But from my study of this tradition, let me simply say this,

Lent is a season where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting or sacrifice in order to grow closer to God.

Now after reading that, some may cynically ask, how does giving up soda or chocolate draw me closer to God? Well, that in and of itself doesn’t. People who drink soda or eat chocolate every other day of the year are not sinning which is what separates us from God. So how is the lack of that action drawing us closer to God?   To understand this, we must understand the basis of why lent has become a tradition. You see, beginning Wednesday of this week, February 10th, we begin the Lenten season, which is 40 days prior to Easter. This represents the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. In case you’re doing the math, there are 46 days from February 10th until March 27th (Easter Sunday) but realize Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent.

So, given that brief history of Lent, allow me to explain why it’s a good thing. The act of fasting at any time of the year isn’t an action that, by itself, brings us closer to God. In reality, those who do not eat for 1 day, 3 days or even up to 40 days may follow the accepted protocol of fasting but if you don’t spend that time reflecting, praying, reading the bible . . . etc. you are pretty much on a temporary diet plan. But yet, Jesus said in Matthew 6:16, “When you fast . . .” giving the reader the understanding that it is expected of me.   The benefit of any fast is what we do in accompaniment with the external sacrifice. One may fast for the salvation of a wayward friend. Others may fast for specific direction in their life. Regardless of your motivation, the connection with God one way or another must be part of the process.   When I was a child, I remember hearing teaching such as this . . . when you fast a meal, take the time you would usually be eating to pray. While the practicality of that is valid, fasting is not a formula of removing one thing to insert another. The reality is we should pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) so even if designating a prayer time during lunch will always be beneficial, it is not an item to check off on a list of daily obligations. The same can be said about Lent. Following the tradition without applying other actions is simply an exercise in discipline. But once you attach times of reflection, prayer and bible reading, this becomes a spiritual discipline.

Throughout the next 2 days, I would encourage you to ask God what you should give up (sacrifice) for Lent. Over the years, I’ve laid aside a variety of things that I felt led to do so at the given time. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong thing to fast.   I would encourage you to take time when you’re reminded of what you’re sacrificing to pray and reflect. Simply put, we have certain habits and when that pattern is interrupted, we take notice. If you fast a certain meal, it could be your body saying, “hey, it’s time to eat” or if you give up television, it could be your mind say, “hey, it’s time to chill and watch the tube”. (Okay I guess I’m showing my age a little with that last response) Regardless, your body will remind you of the pattern you’ve disrupted. Take time at that moment to pray and seek God. In the end, the purpose you do any spiritual discipline is to draw closer to God. Lent can be a time on the calendar that you put this specific discipline into practice.

For some practical purposes, I want to show you what is common for people to give up during times of Lent in our culture based upon Twitter reports of 2015.

  1. Foods (sweets, chips)
  2. Technology (social media)
  3. Alcohol
  4. Swearing, being mean
  5. Complaining

All of those disciplines are very good. But we could expand the list to be more specific at times. For example, some may cut out social media altogether. But social media isn’t always a bad thing. Often the issues that need to be dealt with are what we post on social media. We all experience challenges in our life, but how we respond to that can please or displease God. In our culture we use social media to voice every response we have to opinions, situations and circumstances.  So now we can publically tear one another down, complaining about this or that rather than blessing and encouraging one another. I could give example after example of this but I’m sure you could as well.

As I wrap up, you may read this and feel, this is all just legalism.  That’s okay, then don’t do it. Some times we neglect solid traditions in the name of “not being legalistic”. This becomes legalistic when I demand or expect you follow it. I’m not doing that. Simply suggesting. If you don’t adhere to any of the disciplines of Lent, I want to encourage you to find another way to express spiritual disciplines in your life because it is beneficial, I promise.

Click here for a much more detailed, yet simple understanding of Lent.

Back Up!

Basketball is the sport our family is currently thinking about. Jaxson plays on his school team as well as a travel team that plays on Sunday afternoon.  Needless to say, we have seen our share of basketball this winter and since I often look for a life-lesson (illustration) through every aspect of my day, I am reminded of two words used a lot in 5th grade basketball, “BACK UP!”  This is not in reference to moving backwards or backing up a player.  This refers to when we take a shot and miss (which happens often) and our offense rebounds the ball, you hear from the stands, “Back Up!” which indicates go right back to the hoop, shoot again.  Since the rebound and subsequent following shot is often missed, you hear again from the crowd, “Back Up!”

At a recent game, I heard this often and shouted it myself as we cheered on our players.  To give a brief commentary on the game, we were losing 22-12 towaIMG_1657rds the end of the game.  Our boys played hard and never gave up.  In the final few minutes, we shot, missed, rebounded and shot again time after time and closed the gap.  With a couple timely shots and determination, our boys pulled out a huge victory, 25-23 in what was probably our most exciting game of the season.  And even better, this helps our play-off positioning.

Now that I’ve given a little personal story let me give the life lesson God showed me in all of this.  You see, we often hear motivational things like, “Go for it”, “Give it a shot”, “Go after your dream”.  Heck, I’ve even said these myself over the years to encourage someone.  But what often happens is if success isn’t experienced in the early stages of our pursuit, we often give up and give some sort of excuse such as, “I don’t have what it takes”, “I tried and failed”, “It must not be God’s will” . . . etc.  To anyone who’s used those statements as a justification to quit, let me say to you today, “BACK UP!”  Just like a father yells from the stands to an inexperienced 5th grade basketball team, I believe God, our heavenly father, is yelling from the throne, “BACK UP!”, “Try again”, “Don’t quit”

Even after being down 22-12, our 5th graders never looked at the scoreboard as the end of the game scenario.  Don’t look at your current situation in life as the what the final score will read.  You still have time on the clock to make a difference.  Keep pushing forward, rebound and shoot again.  The bible says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  (Galatians 6:9)  Let’s never forget that.

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Love My Neighbor

love-your-neighbor

Let me just start right off by saying that the stick-figure craziness is a little . . . well out of control.  But, I figured I’d jump on the band wagon with a custom version of this little fad for today’s blog.   For many years, I’ve grown up hearing the about the love commandments from Jesus found in Mark 12:30-31.  When asked what is the most important commandment, Jesus answers by referencing old testament scriptures (Deut. 6:4-5 and Lev. 19:18) when he said, paraphrased . . . Love God with everything and Love your neighbor as yourself.  That second quoted commandment is what I want to dive into today.

This past Friday and Saturday, we were hit with “winter storm Jonas” and it had a pretty significant impact on our area.  If you were on my block, you didn’t drive anywhere until late Saturday afternoon simply because of the 18 or so inches and no plow trucks available down our one-way street.  I got up on the morning, got Jax and I breakfast and around 9:00am, went to work shoveling and snow-blowing.  What’s this have to do with “loving your neighbor” you may ask?  Well, in this process several of my friends on the block came out to do the same.  At first, everyone was primarily taking care of their sidewalk, their own cars, drive ways . . . etc.  Even though it was still snowing, at one point I felt I had done most of my area and was just waiting until the plow came down the road to allow for cars to get through.  But since I was already dressed and snow covered, I started to remove snow from my next door neighbors walk.  You see, this house was bought in October by a young lady and her sister who lived with their parents about 45 minutes away from here.  The two of them, their father and some friends have been working hard for months on renovating this house.  Seriously . . . almost nightly for months.  So I thought I’m sure when they come today to work on the house, they don’t want to have to shovel a few hours just to get into their home.  So I started on the walk and my other neighbor on the other side of their house follow suit and started to use his snow blower on the other side of their walk.  Soon, my good friend Gary from across the street, came over and with his power-house snow blower took care of over half the drive way.  So when we were finished, they had virtually nothing to do when they got their.  A little while later, she came with her boyfriend expecting to be shoveling for the next few hours.  I was outside and the one owner almost came running to my house asking if I did this.  I said, well several of us did.  She just couldn’t stop thanking me and offering some sort of payment or gift but I said, “that’s what neighbors do.”  We take care of each other.  A little while later, she made a b-line for Gary and said something very similar to him.

Also during love neighbor billboardthe day, a neighbor a few doors down was outside working as well.  He and his young boy were shoveling and shoveling.  As I finished my area and my next-door neighbor’s, he asked if he could use my snow blower for a few minutes and I gladly responded, of course.  As he was using it, I went to the garage, got the container of gas and said to him, use it as long as you need to.  Here’s some extra gas if it’s needed.  A short while later, he comes over to my house thanking me repeatedly, trying to hand me some money for the gas used.  I said no, keep your money, “that’s what neighbors do.”  By the end of the afternoon, most of our block was cleaned out because several people put this principle into practice.  For me, it was easy to do this because I used to see and still see my dad doing this exact type of thing for his neighbors.  So, for me, it was a natural response to help neighbors in need.

Once early evening came, the city plow finally made it down our street and all the snow they moved from the middle now was piled up against our cars and front of our drive-way.  Our neighborhood crew made it back out and started to clear away that snow pile.  Although, this time something changed.  I moved my cars into our drive way but there was such a thick and big pile up at the end of my drive way that my snow blower was really struggling to get through it.  My good friend Gary, I mentioned before, comes over with his monster snow-blower and says, “I’ll takes care of the big pile while you remove the smaller piles.”  I believe I can speak for Gary (because he is a man of God and I know his character) and I can say his motivation was, “that’s what neighbors do.

At the end of the day, I was thanking God for my neighbors.  Those who I was able to help and those who helped me.  You see, I believe what you just read is this principle in practice.  Many people may read, hear or even quote scriptures without an understanding of what that looks like to be carried out in the real life.  For me, I experienced this on both ends that day.  I ended the day with such delight because of how God used me to bless my neighbors.  Even though I was physically exhausted, I was emotionally and spiritually invigorated because of God’s goodness.

Allow me to close this blog post out with a challenge.  What do you already have in your garage, cupboards or otherwise that can bless your neighbors?  How can you show God’s love to your block?  I will admit, I don’t always do this well, but this week, I had the privilege to to be a part of seeing this principle carried out by several neighborhood men.  I look forward to the opportunities for future ministry to my neighbors.  Shelley Ave in Altoona is blessed.

Crazy Ideas

Have you ever had an idea pop into your head that you eventually ignored because it simply seemed too crazy after you had time to think about it?  Yeah, me too.  Today I want to talk to you about this concept while giving honor to someone who did just that.  As you may or may not know, God had given me story lines for our Easter musical productions over the past 5 years that have been a modern, real life story parallel with the traditional Easter story.  But where did that concept start.  Well . . . from a crazy idea.

OrvilleYou see, a man by the name of Orville Ormsby came to me occasionally with creative and “out of the box” ideas for our musicals.  Around 2008-2009, he suggested we do an Easter musical that’s set in modern times.  To which I responded, “Orville, I don’t see how I can change our community established Easter productions with a modern version.”   Why am I telling you this?  Well, it was that crazy idea that planted a seed in me that would change our production ministry for years to come.  Although I haven’t written a story completely set in modern times, in 2010 I first wrote a musical that dealt with a real life (modern) situation and demonstrated how one could parallel that with the story of hope, healing and wholeness found in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  This had continued in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 with other modern stories that confront hard-hitting, real life situations and a biblical response to every one of them.

This past week, we had a memorial service for Orville as he passed away early this year.  My heart was heavy but I was reminded of a man who had some great, yet crazy ideas and, although may often been dismissed, his crazy idea was the foundation for what we created in our musical productions and eventually played a part in my current effort to produce a movie.

So the next time you have a crazy idea, embrace it.  We may not always be able to see our crazy ideas come to fruition but one thing I know is every creative effort I’ve had started with some crazy ideas and concepts in the beginning.  Don’t just follow the paths that others suggest or have already established.  Blaze new trails with crazy ideas.   Henry Ford , the inventor of the modern automobile, said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  As we know, what he created instead was something that changed history.

In closing, I want to give honor once again to Orvlle, my friend, who inspired me to think out-of-the-box with “crazy ideas”.  I hope he inspires you to do the same.

Trust-your-crazy-ideas.-

Limitless

Whenever I look at my plan for accomplishing anything challenging, I often look at it in one of two ways.  One, what can I do?  What abilities or skills do I have to make this or that work successfully.  And the second perspective is the spiritual approach, what can God do?  For some reason these two thoughts often seem mutually exclusive.  Rather than thinking I have to do it ALL on my own or thinking God will do it ALL, why not pair the two concept together.

I look at the story in the bible of Peter being called out of the boat by Jesus.   Matthew 14:29 says [Jesus said] Come.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. After Jesus spoke to Peter and called him, Peter could have easily analyzed his personal limitations and said, Wait . . . I can’t do that.  But as we know, he didn’t.  In his strength, he moved towards the edge of the boat, picked up one leg at a time and stepped out of the boat.  It was at THAT point, the supernatural kicked in and he walked on water.  Regardless of what happened after that, Peter experienced the supernatural after he did what he could in the natural.

I believe God places abilities, knowledge and resources in every single one of us.  Yes, I realize we have limits on each of those.  But let me submit to you today that I believe we must exhaust what has inherently been placed inside us to the end of all of our options . . . then we’ll see God be the difference maker.  Look at it through this track and field illustration.   In a 4 x 100 relay, 4 people must be involved.  Person 1 runs to the best of his ability 100 meters but must pass the baton to the next person to complete the task.  Person 2 and 3 the same.  At the close of the race, the 4th person, also known as the anchor, is the final person in the race.  Hopefully he will make up the difference needed and accomplish success.  I look at our journey as God being the anchor in a relay race.  We must do ALL we can do to get to the end of our 100 meters, but realize God is there, with his hand out ready to receive the baton and finish what you and I can’t on our own.

When God puts something on your heart that seems too massive to comprehend let alone accomplish.  Realize you’re not in this journey alone.  Yes, you are required to get out of the boat, you are required to run your 100 meters but once you do the possible, you will see God be the God of the impossible.

Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us

go as far as you can go

Dare To Be Great

greatness

When beginning a new year, we often aspire to new goals and resolutions only to be disappointed a few weeks or months later when we fall short.  Well, I am challenging myself and you to something very achievable.  This is something much more mental than physical so it will not take any additional time away from family but will actually enhance your time with your family.  It will not be a new hobby or career but will potentially provide the opportunity for promotion and success.  Okay, now I’m sounding like an infomercial.  Allow me to explain and give a little back-story on this.

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a Catalyst leadership conference with Andy Stanley and  and Craig Groeschel.   Of the many nuggets I walked away with was one that really stuck out and I’ve taken it a step further.  Towards the end, it was shared whenever you have to make a decision, think, “What would a great leader do?”  As you can probably already glean from this, I accepted this challenge and even took it a step further for me personally.  Just like leaders should ask themselves this question, I believe we should ask ourselves similar questions in different areas of our life.  For example, “What would a great father do?”,  “What would a great employee do?”, “What would a great manager do?” . . . etc.

As we make decisions with this as our initial filter, we will ultimately make decisions motivated by greatness.  One thing that is often an argument with achieving greatness is we sound arrogant or selfish when we think this way.  But, as I see it, quite the opposite is true.  When we make decisions based upon how difficult the challenge is and if we consequently want to tackle it or not is a text book definition of selfishness.  Achieving greatness in whatever you do is a principle that promises to be rewarding.

As a Christian who grew up in the 1980s, this concept was around then with the WWJD campaign.  Whenever making decisions, ask yourself, What Would Jesus Do?  Although a valid filter, I wanted to make this more specific in the areas of my life.  Asking WWJD is still a valid question, but if you ask yourself, “What would a great Christian do?”  then you are applying your personal viewpoint on what that looks and sounds like today into your decision.  My viewpoint may be slightly different than yours and that’s okay.  You don’t have to argue or debate what a great christian is because, in your mind, you already have that definition.

As we begin another year, lets all be challenged with this idea. Fill in the blank with whatever you do during each day.  Ask yourself, “What would a great (fill in the blank) do in this situation? . . .  then do it.