Friday, November 18, 2011

Everything matters

Text for the week: Colossians 3:17

Well, that about does it, right?  That’s about all that needs to be said.  We’ve transitioned and turned the corner.  Because of where we are in the semester, we find ourselves thinking about Thanksgiving break and all that goes with it.

I think of Thanksgiving Day (the first day Christmas music is allowed in my home), putting up Christmas decorations, watching the Lions lose again, eating turkey till I bust, and the traditional clash between my beloved Buckeyes and the boys wearing the ugly helmets north of the state line. (Got your attention on that one, didn’t I?)

I’m not sure how you are, but I compartmentalize my life pretty easily.  It’s natural for me to just move on and forget what I’ve just done because it’s done, over, finis (thought I’d throw a little French in there). It’s already getting colder, getting dark early, and everything seems to be rapidly moving us toward the end of the semester and on to Christmas.  So, before our minds wander too far away from topic, here is one last thought: Whatever you do for God matters.

This semester, I know we’ve talked a lot about going, but I want you to know that whatever you do and wherever you do it, matters.  When Tony Campolo was here, he challenged us to go where we are needed — not where anyone else could do what we do.  I think he said it something like this:  “Why would you go someplace and do what you do, if a lot of other people can do it, instead of going someplace where what you do is needed, and no one wants to go?”

Before we put a bow on this box and put it under the tree, I hope you will think about that challenge one more time.  I don’t care where you go.  I just want you to find God waiting for you when you get there.  I don’t care what you do — that’s not my call.  I just want you to do the very thing that God created you to do, and that’s between the two of you. 

I trust God to help you discover what that is, and where you will do it.  I believe He is capable of speaking that into your heart, if you’re listening.  I don’t think we necessarily need to do anything differently to hear Him, just be attentive to the ways He is speaking to us every day.  It’s the little things that matter most.  Whatever we do for God matters. It makes all the difference in the world.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bigger hands

Text for the week: Exodus 3:13-4:5

A couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with two professors and we wondered together how God was going to use one of our guests in chapel.  What would God say to us through them?

During the course of the conversation, I said something — maybe in an attempt to ease my mind as much as to come up with a response.  In a moment of inspiration, I made this statement:  “Bigger hands are shaping this semester than mine.”  It was intended to be a statement of faith, but is one I believe has become a reality to us.

Since then, I’ve thought about that conversation and my response several times.  I’ve actually used that phrase often, maybe with some of you.  The further we move into the semester, the more profound it has become to me — not because I said it, but because it is true.  The evidence is right in front of us, again showing up this week through three of our own faculty and two alumni. 

Bigger hands have been shaping this semester than mine — than all of ours.  This is a not-so-subtle reminder that we aren’t in charge.  God is, and He will do what He will do, when He wants to do it.  We can plan, pray, and do everything we can, but ultimately, this is His.  We believe that God is ever-present, but it has been apparent to me, and many of you, that He has chosen to be close to us as well. 

Yet in the midst of saying that, we need to also be reminded that He sees us; He sees you and me.  He is aware of the deepest desires of our hearts. As we seek Him, He wants us to not only find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), but find those desires met. 

I had this conversation with a student just this week, reminding him that God doesn’t jerk us around, doesn’t play games with us concerning the things that matter most.  He desires to shape us, helping us to experience life that is more than we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams (Ephesians 3:20, The Message Translation).

So, the question of the semester remains: What will you do with what God has placed in your hands?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lessons from a ballpark

Text for the week: Jeremiah 29:10-14

I’m a recovering baseball fan.  The strike of ’91 hurt, but the strike of ’94 killed me.  I know, ’94?  The team with the best record in baseball before the strike of ’94 was the Montreal Expos. Again, I can hear a resounding, “Montreal Expos?”

But, it’s not the teams I want to talk about today. It’s the stadiums they played in: Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Municipal Stadium in Cleveland. Old Candlestick in San Francisco. The Big “A” in Anaheim. Three River Stadium in Pittsburgh. Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The Astrodome in Houston. And even my beloved Tiger Stadium in Detroit. 

None of these stadiums are standing anymore, but do you know what else they had in common?  They were large, cavernous stadiums built to get as many people in them as possible.   Not much personality.  As a matter of fact, you could almost say that if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.  Big, oval, concrete structures that, once inside, you couldn’t see beyond their walls to the outside world.  You didn’t go to the game for the ballpark, you went in spite of it. 

It’s why people value the older stadiums like Fenway and Wrigley, with their personality, charm and individuality — remembered for things like ivy and “a green monster.”  People still go to watch those teams, just to visit the ballparks.  It doesn’t really matter how well the Cubs are doing; they still draw over 2.5 million because of the ballpark. 

So, if you visit the stadiums that have replaced the ones listed above, you will see that they are all built with a different purpose in mind.  They are all individually shaped not just for the team, but even around the city they inhabit. 

Did you see the arch cut in the grass of Busch Stadium during the World Series, showcasing not just the Cardinals, but the entire downtown skyline of St. Louis?  Or have you been to The Great America Ballpark in Cincinnati, where you are on a river walk once you walk out of the seats in right field?  Or how about the new Miller Ballpark in Milwaukee, where every time a homerun is hit, Bernie slides into a huge stein, and every fifth inning you have the mascot race, made up of a brat, sausage, hotdog, and polish?  See what I mean?

Each is creative and individual, having its own personality, experience, charm and even story.  Just like us.  I don’t think I’m being romantic, either — because we matter!   We are wired by our Creator to long for meaning and purpose and to see ourselves as He created us to be.  And like we were reminded this week, not one of us is wired the same, and that’s okay.  (I’m glad I wasn’t called to math, either!)

Just like the new generation of major league ballparks springing up across the country, maybe their rebuilding is expressing the greater longing within each of us to find our own meaning and purpose for this life.   Maybe we can learn a lesson from a baseball park, because maybe they are betraying our hearts.   

What are you hearing?