Basketball and God

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My 5th grade nephew doing his thing last season.

I doubt many folks think of God when they think of basketball. I’m sure a multitude of prayers

have been lifted up from courts and stands across the nation with the desperate hope of a buzzer-beating shot. But on the daily, not so much.

I certainly didn’t relate the two until a couple of months ago. I was in the middle of a personal retreat, wrestling with my soul-crushing inability to allow God’s love to define my worth rather than work and ministry. It was an agonizing couple of days struggling to traverse the deep canyon from head knowledge to heart knowledge. My head knows God’s unconditional love constitutes my worth. My heart, however, tends to think God is far too nice to hurt my feelings by telling me how much I’ve disappointed him. Maybe God doesn’t even realize he is disappointed. Maybe he isn’t being honest with himself. But I know. Which makes me feel worse so I work even harder to be worthy of His love and not let Him down. Pity party for one, please.

It was in the middle of this wrestling (excuse the mixed metaphors) when I thought about basketball.

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Watching Somebody Love

“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz

I love this line from Donald Miller’s book and was stoked it made it into the movie by the same name. Miller was talking about sometimes people learn to love something – like jazz music or God – because they witness someone loving jazz music or God and it moves you. You can’t argue with it and sometimes it doesn’t make sense at all yet the proof is in front of you in how a person loves. Like that odd couple. You know the one I’m talking about; the one that makes everyone wonder, “How in the world did those two get together?” or “What does he possibly see in her?” If I ever get married, I hope people are whispering that about me and my man because that means I hit the hubby jackpot.

Hands holding sapling in soilThis summer our youth group worked with a guy named Joe. (definitely hubby jackpot material). Joe was a volunteer with a food bank and was in charge of their community garden. Joe loves vegetables and dirt and compost. He loves worms and fish waste and all things organic. Joe loves sustainable living and the natural world. I bet, at Joe’s house, he powers his toaster with a bike and showers in rain water he collected in his back yard. I loved being around Joe in the garden because Joe loved the garden. When a tilapia would defecate in the water, Joe’s eyes would light up. So many beautiful, organic things happening around him.

Joe’s love for his garden made me want to garden. His love for pooping fish made me want a pooping fish. His love for vegetables made me ….  well, it was a start.  By experiencing Joe’s love and passion for gardening, I was curious and even a little motivated to see if maybe this was something I could really love too. And that, my friends, is rich soil where seeds are planted.

The way we love is our most powerful witness yet Christians are more known for hate than we are love.

If we could fall madly in love with God in response to God’s mad love for us and just let that ooze out of us in every way possible, people will notice. People who really love like Jesus are weird. Not Westboro or fundamentalist weird but Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela weird. Like Jesus weird. People can’t help but watch them. And maybe they don’t love God. Maybe they even hate God. But they can’t argue with genuine love and when they see us loving extravagantly, maybe they will be a little curious and maybe even a little motivated to see if maybe this is Someone they could really love too.  And that, my friends, is rich soil where seeds are planted.

Have you ever watched someone love something so much that it motivated you to love it as well?  What are some signs that you’ve seen in others that love Jesus like Joe loves gardens? Leave a comment.

What the World Needs Now

… is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. Not just for some, but for everyone.”

I was reading about a church plant, Imago, the other day in the book, Blue Like Jazz. In the book, author Don Miller talks about their humble beginning and the difficulty they experienced in growing because of their focus internally. Then the group committed itself to simply loving others because they deserve to be loved. No other agenda, no other motivation, no outreach plan for the church. Just love. In a short time. their community grew and within two years, they have grown to over 500 members. Now, the number here isn’t important but the reality of what happens when we honestly and genuinely love is. Nothing clearer in Scripture than this, right? Love God, love others. DSC_0024.jpg

But it isn’t easy, is it. Loving others is messy and complicated and scary. These are nonnegotiables if you are going to love others. But so are joy, care, being understood and new understandings.

“To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive – to grief, sorrow and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before.” – Rollo May

Whatever love you are talking about, this applies. Eros, Philia, or Agape. To love another human – whether in a passionate way or a brotherly/sisterly way – is an opening to the negative as well as the positive. It is because it involves humans with human nature and human depravity. But to not love is shutting the door to the positive – to blessings and intensities that we would miss completely. The old adage: “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” And to not love means we miss a whole dimension of God that can only be fully understood or known through vulnerable love with one another. Everyone must weigh the risks for themselves but as one who used to be self-protected in this area, let me say with honesty that it is worth it to love and with the help of the Spirit, it is possible to come through any hurt to the other side which is a stronger, wiser member of God’s family.

I am committing myself to loving others more authentically, more compassionately, more Christ-like than I ever have before. Why? Because they deserve to be loved. No agenda, no manipulation. Just love. My prayer is that one day at a time, God will change my heart to match my will to love and that one day I will wake-up and realize that God has done an amazing heart-change in me and to love is no longer a concerted effort but rather way of life-breathing for me. I love without thinking and if I stop loving, I cease.