Me and the Yuts

March 29, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Houston with my buddy Rolfe Carawan. He was speaking at a Student leader’s Conference and he invited me along to help.

So there we were– two guys over 40 with about 420 student leaders from the south side (I think) of Houston. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I can totally relate to the Yuts of today (A “yut” is a “youth”… if you didn’t get that you need to rent My Cousin Vinnie). They have grown up in a whole new world.

As I thought about how I can connect with the Yuts of today, I started wondering: Why do I feel like I can’t relate to them? Perhaps it’s because my daughters tell me that all the time (They don’t actually use those words… they don’t say, “Father, you can not relate to me and my friends”… They say other things like: you’re so queer; you’re such a dork; look at what dad is wearing; listen to what dad said; don’t speak anymore in front of my friends; I’m bringing a friend home– can you not be there; please don’t act like you know me; etc… I know that I am not the only parent to hear these words.) Perhaps it is because every generation feels like they can’t relate to the generation before them because things change so much. Perhaps every generation doesn’t want to think the next is “better” than them. Perhaps every generation thinks that the way they experienced life is the “right” way.

Imaginary conversation from the ancient past…

DAD: What’s that thing?

SON: It’s a bow and arrow…

DAD: What’s it for?

SON: I can hunt, defend myself, and attack from a distance.

DAD: From a distance?!? That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done!

SON: It’s safer– and more effective.

DAD: It’s whimpy… You’re so soft. In my day, we had a club or a sword– and that’s it!

SON: It’s progress.

DAD: Yeah, well the next thing you know, you’ll be wearing tights!

SON: Funny you should mention that…

I think it’s really easy to assume that the younger generation is clueless and wrong– and in a sense that’s true because they have not acquired the wisdom that only age can bring. But in Houston, the Superintendent of the schools said something I found rather thought provoking. He said this to the students: “You are smarter than us adults… You’re just not wiser.

You know what? I think he’s right. The Yuts of today know more about the world than I ever did. They understand more about diversity and different cultures. They learn about the environment. (Question: Any of you adults have a hard time helping your kids with their homework?! I do!)

These Yuts in Houston were incredible kids. They were everything that I don’t think that kids are these days: polite, appreciative, respectful, energetic, compassionate, unified, excited, hopeful. In fact, these kids were many things that I wasn’t when I was their age!

What am I trying to say? I guess I discovered that I can relate to kids because… well, they’re people. And I probably need to give them the props they’re due (I just used a cool word, huh). It’s easy to bash kids as lazy, selfish, unappreciative, and soft. But they are just growing up in the environment that we created.

For example. We are very worried about the education of our children. Other countries are passing up the US in test scores… and we blame the kids! Who’s teaching them? Who put together the curricula? Who is leading them? WE ARE! Or, at least, we’re supposed to. I’m reminded of a comment from Comedian Greg Giralldo. He said this:

I read that Cyprus has just passed the US in Math test scores. That’s ridiculous! That’s embarrassing! What’s happening to the youth of today?!… Then I realized that I didn’t even know that Cyprus was a country!

(Note: during this entire ramble, my spellcheck is going nuts– I didn’t even know “curricula” was a word!)

I was so pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the kids we spoke to in Houston, I had to do a little self-evaluation. Were those just special kids and was that a special situation? Or is my expectation and view wrong to begin with? I’m going to go with “B”. I think I head into many situations with a skewed view of reality. I assume that people are wrong, off, or heading a bad direction– and that can effect how I interact with them. In other words, the problem isn’t with them, it’s with me.

As hard as that lesson is to admit– I’d like to learn it. And I want to thank the Yuts for teaching it to me. And I need the Yuts in my world to keep teaching me.

So this is a shout out to my Yut peeps everywhere– keep on keepin’ on ya’ll (and clean up your room).

Grace and peace,


The Other Side of Giving

March 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

What’s your view of giving? We give gifts, we give advice, we give a darn, we give away, we give attention.

In church, we talk a lot about giving. Whether it is to support ministry, feed the poor, build a building, or care for others in the body– giving is something that is an integral part of the Christian life.

That makes a lot of sense when you think about it (even though we don’t like to think about giving much. Look at this passage from Scripture (I know you’ve heard this):
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

Eternal life with God is a gift that comes through Jesus Christ. God is the great giver– and, as his children, we are called to be givers too.

Okay. I get that. You get that. Want proof? Keep looking in the Bible. In Acts 20:35, Paul tells us that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

That’s pretty straightforward, huh. How about this…
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

So we should give and we should be cheerful about it.

Now, I bet you may be tempted to stop reading now. You’ve been there and done that. Besides, sounds like another Pastor talking about fund-raising again. Well, hang on there buckeroo– I want to talk about the other side of giving. The other side of giving? What does that mean?

Glad you asked… The other side of giving is receiving . And here’s my question for you: How are you at receiving?

Don’t answer too fast. I’m not talking about your birthday or Christmas– I’m not talking about how you receive extravagant gifts that are fun or cool or bonuses. I’m talking about how you receive gifts from others that you need and you couldn’t get on your own? Have you ever experienced this kind of receiving?

We have (me and my family). We have received money for school supplies, funds for mortgages, and most recently a car. Pretty cool, huh? We were blown away by the generosity of those in our community.

On one side of giving (the giving) we have generosity, selflessness, love, grace, sympathy. On the other side (the receiving) we have… Well, what do we have? That’s my question.

I’d like to say we have appreciation, humility, thanksgiving, and praise. But there is also something else that can rise up– something that may be unexpected: PRIDE.

Here’s part of what I experienced when we received grace from others (grace= undeserved favor, getting something you don’t deserve): I must pay this back somehow. I must prove worthy of this gift. And that is PRIDE. Pride tells me that I shouldn’t be in a position of need and it’s bad that others see me this way. Pride says that I can do it on my own and the fact that you think I can’t is a sign of weakness. Pride says you must be self-sufficient.

Pride can steal the joy that should be a part of receiving.

When we were given a car, our benefactors said, “We were planning on getting a new car and were thinking about what we should do with our old one. When we heard that your car died God told us to give our car to you.” Now that’s a pretty cool “God story”, isn’t it?

But it was hard for me to accept that story because of my own PRIDE. I began questioning the givers: Are you sure about this? We can figure something out… Let us give you something for it… Don’t feel like you have to do this…

When they brought us the car, I found myself hemming and hawing… I really don’t know what to say– I don’t know how to thank you. And here was the response: God gave you this car. That was it. Simple. Maybe too simple for me to understand.

But then, it makes sense. God is the great giver. Whether it is a car or his Son. God gives. And we receive. I think the hardest things for people to accept is that we must receive God’s gifts. He is giving– are you receiving? How much does pride affect how you see God and his gifts to you?

If you feel like YOU have to repay God for his grace than you have an issue with pride. If you pray for strength so that YOU can do what YOU think God wants YOU to do than you have an issue with pride. If YOU are focusing on all the rules that YOU need to follow to live a godly life than you have an issue with pride.

PRIDE is a destroyer of gratitude. PRIDE is the opposite of humility. PRIDE can keep us from receiving.

And here’s the coolest part of all: When you accept the other side of giving (receiving) you will become a giver. Why? Because you understand that God is the great giver and so you can give without worrying about losing. In other words, if you can’t receive, you can’t give.

Maybe I’m starting to understand that. I wouldn’t have unless I was placed in a position of need– and then God brought others to meet those needs.

I think I’ll go for a drive– I find that it helps my gratitude level. It reminds me of givers.

Grace and Peace.

A Soldier of One

March 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

The US Army has commercials that talk about “A Soldier of One.” It’s a cool campaign.

I was thinking about that concept this week because I had an opportunity to do a video for the US Army for the last three days. I played a Master Sergeant (yes, I was a kind of pudgy, cuddly, Master Sergeant– they are rare, but do exist). I wore a uniform (yes, I looked good… after the guys showed me how to tie my boots and stuff). I met some young soldiers (a group of guys right out of boot camp). I don’t think I can say anything more because I do not know what I can or cannot talk about on a blog page (mysterious, huh?).

I will say this: I realized how much of “a Soldier of One” I can be. Unfortunately, I don’t say that in the way the commercials mean it (rugged, capable, independent, brave, mission-oriented). What I mean is that I can be pretty self-absorbed at times. My world includes others, of course, but not a lot.

For example, I don’t get a newspaper. (The reason I stopped getting a paper is because I didn’t read anything except the sports page… I decided that I would forsake sports news and read the Bible instead. I mention this so that you realize my spiritual vibrancy and don’t judge harshly when you hear how clueless I am about current events) Not a big deal, right? But I don’t watch the news either (except SportsCenter– and that doesn’t count). This means that I don’t have a clue about what is happening in the world– I just know what’s happening in my world. And my world is pretty small.

I think we can all get a narrow view on the world sometimes (And perhaps there’s some goodness in that: we can focus on important things in our lives without a lot of outside distractions– family, friends, faith, hobbies, vocation, etc). But I think God has a way of moving us outside of our cozy little cocoons sometimes– and most of the time we don’t like it. He gets us out of our comfort zones to expose us to things we may not ever choose to expose ourselves to. It could be a hospital room, a court, a half-way house, a school classroom, a support group or a church.

But something happens in those strange, uncomfortable places that can never happen in a cocoon. We grow and experience LIFE in a whole new way. We see things from a different perspective. We see other people. We see other things.

In the last year, God got me out of my cocoon. I’ve learned more about Him, myself, and others in the last year than in all the other 41 years combined (okay, that maybe is an exaggeration but I was never very good in math… I’ve learned a lot– let’s just say that). Maybe it’s just me. I’m a little slow (I can hear those “Amens” out there!). But, at least I’m out of the cocoon and testing these fragile but functional wings. And it’s kind of fun (scary– yes, uncomfortable– sometimes, interesting– all the time).

Putting on a uniform did not make me a soldier. But it did give me the opportunity to put a face to some current events that I have ignored for too long. It allowed me to meet 12 fine young men who work hard and have values and are not afraid to serve their country. 12 men who will have to rely on others in the weeks and months ahead more than I may ever experience.

I’m glad that God doesn’t want us to cocoon-up– and even will rip it open sometimes so that we have to fly.

I don’t want to be “an Army of One”… So if you see me hurriedly spinning a chrysalis (SAT word– 100 points!!) to protect myself, tell me to drop and give you 20 (I know that’s not a lot– but it will get my attention because I think I can only give you 7 good push-ups).

Think I’ll start by praying for 12 soldiers…