Monthly Archives: July 2014

size matters

big tree wonder

There is a tree in the middle of the redwood forest. And this tree gets a lot of attention. You can be driving through these beautiful woods surrounded by trees you could move your whole family into, but for some reason there is this one tree that everyone is drawn to. And maybe that is because there is this sign. And it highlights this tree. It points to it, specifically, as if this is the one tree in this giant forest that you should see.

And it says: Big tree, point one mile. So, in the midst of all these big trees, there is THEE BIG TREE. So, what does everyone do? They pull their RV’s, family vans and El Caminos over. They park and walk to this one tree, whose sign beckons them to come.

We too, were like the rest of them. We pulled our car over and excitedly couldn’t wait to see this big deal tree. The mother tree. (Said in an excited, manly sports announcer voice.)The tree whose autograph we hope for. The tree who will awaken awe within us. Our kids climbed over stumps, through logs and along a dusty path surrounded by trees covered in moss older than your great grandma. There were gorgeous ferns that told stories we will never know and trees that had been uprooted, had fallen over and now had great fun with children walking over them as though they were bridges to places yet unknown. But none of those things got much attention because everyone you traveled on the path with was headed to one place, the biggest of the biggest trees.

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My kids were distracted on the trail and I was enjoying using my legs after the hundreds of miles they had just sat. So I came to the Big Deal tree, first. It was huge. To be exact, here were it’s dimensions. Because things that are a big deal need signs with bragging rights.

to be exact

There were people gawking at it. There was a line of people getting their pictures under it. There was a newlywed couple taking a selfie of their blissful love in front of this ginormous monument. There was a family capturing their kids who could not even span this tree’s width.

As I stood there, I have to say that I was unimpressed. Maybe I was being sassy. I have been known to be so. Maybe I was being a critic. I too can go there. But really, I started feeling sorry for the other trees. I walked around and looked for the smallest tree. This little guy got absolutely no attention. No one was taking selfies and instagramming it. No one was posting about her beauty on Facebook. Kids weren’t measuring it’s greatness with their outstretched arms. And I got to thinking’….(Cause sometimes God shows up and speaks in the most ordinary and extraordinary of places…)

little tree

This is how our world is. We are all looking for the big tree. We all want to see the big tree, be in it’s presence and if we are really honest, we want to be the big tree. No one cares about the little tree, no one notices it and we certainly aren’t hoping to become one.

And it’s this very chase that, I think, makes all of us crazy. We try to be the big tree. We try to be the big tree in our careers. I mean, who shoots to be the janitor? Since when do we say “Hey when I graduate from college, I am going to go and try and get an entry level position and keep it because I want to be at the bottom of the ladder.”

Since when do we bow out from elevating ourselves socially and letting other people shine while we sit in the background unnoticed? We don’t . We try to be the big tree with lots of other trees in our forest, who we hope, think we are majestic.

How often do we go about our day looking for the little unnoticed tree? Do you go to work or school and look for those that no one else notices? Or do you plan your day and your schedule around who you care about, who you think is a big deal, and who you want to be with? When you walk into a party do you look for the person in the corner who is by themselves or do you look for your friends? When you make friday night plans do you always invite the cool people in your life over or do you invite people who might be alone and needing some company?

And another important question to ask is, are you impressed with the big trees in your world? Do you get on paths with signs that point to the big guy? If you are impressed by people who are a big deal, you are impressed by size and that might just find you constantly tempted to walk a path that leads you to wonder and gawk at the kind of size that might matter little in life.

the path

Look, I don’t like these questions either. And maybe it will take me being honest so you can be too. This big tree- little tree world we live in is often the greatest distraction to me living the purpose for which I am called. And it is the very thing that not only keeps me from living out the spiritual, meaningful life I want to live, it also often measures me. It often tells me I am just a mediocre tree in a forest full of other bigger trees that people gawk over… But me, I am just a plain ol’ redwood that everyone else passes by to get to that guy. Maybe you sometimes feel this way too…

We are all in a forest of trees. And what makes it a forest is that it is full of trees. It is not a forest if there is only one tree. It has trees that tower so high that you can barely see their end. It has trees that are yellow in hue and some that are dark green. Some trees house owls and others bring shade for the elk. And some are used for the purpose of entertaining whole families by challenging dad’s driving skills.

what an ordeal

News flash: Jesus doesn’t actually call us to be the big tree. I am sorry to disappoint you. If that is what you are shooting for or impressed by, you are headed in a direction that Jesus is not going. And that is scary news for those of us who say we are “followers of Christ.” Because if you are on the path to be the big tree, you aren’t on the path following Christ.

What does Christ say? In the middle of the redwood forest, on our family road trip, I heard God whisper in my ear the words I need to become apart of my DNA.

Philippians 2:1-8 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

If you are on a dusty trail traveling somewhere and you are hoping it’s a path that is one that Jesus shares, let me remind you what that path will look like. Jesus will not be calling you to be a big deal. You will know you are on the right path when this is your aim:

the path of Christ

These words are coming from the One who didn’t just talk the talk, but walked the walk. This is the One who said, “You wanna be great, be last. You wanna gain your life? Lose your life.” Jesus was always challenging size. It’s like Jesus says, “You think being great looks like being big. Make yourself small. It is then that you will be big.” 

So, maybe size matters.

I asked my daughter last night why she thinks Jesus would tell us to make ourselves nothing. I asked her, “Why would Jesus tell us to be the small tree?” She said, “So we won’t be selfish.” But then she said something pretty profound… She said, “The good thing, Mom, is that Jesus told everyone this. He didn’t just pick a few of us and say ‘You be a little tree because you aren’t good enough to be a big one.’” Bella went on with great nine year old wisdom saying, “Jesus said it to all of us, so it doesn’t mean we aren’t special.” I got what she meant.

She meant, God doesn’t call a few of us to be humble, make ourselves nothing and make other’s interests a bigger deal than our own because somehow some of us can’t ever be anything else. God called all of us to this way of living because He knew, that then and only then, would we all grow to be the most gorgeous redwoods in the land. Each tree bending for the other. Each tree providing shade for the other. Each tree pointing to the beauty of the other. Each tree unconcerned and unimpressed with pride and place, but instead loving and thinking of the other. Now, that’s the kind of forest I want to vacation too.

I was driving somewhere years ago and I had just left a place where my identity had been very secure and found great confidence in the place I had been. And here all of a sudden I didn’t have that confidence and identity any longer and I didn’t like it. In my car, Jesus said gently to me, “Make yourself nothing. That’s what I did.” Out loud while driving 10 and 2, I said to Him in tantrum style, “I don’t want to be nothing.” He said, “I know.” 

And that’s just it. If you want to actually follow Jesus instead of drag Him wherever you are going, You need to be ready to humble yourself like that of the God of the Universe who is the Biggest, most Powerful, Majestic, Supernatural, Divine being there is and yet He humbled Himself, became nothing, took on the nature of a slave and moved into the hood with a bunch of small dysfunctional saplings and He actually died on a tree so that we would know how loved we are by this God!

how big is this tree

If your goals, passions, pursuits, plans and dreams see you at the end of a path with a sign on it that says “Big Deal”, you might want to have a come to Jesus meeting like I did in the Redwoods, where you truly decide right here and now, whether you are going to follow Him or your own way.

Because on Jesus’ path, size matters. You are called to make yourself small in pride, priority, status and standing and big in virtue, love, humility, and service toward others. That’s taking up His cross, and when you do, you become the greatest tree that ever lived.

What kind of lighthouse are you?

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We went on vacation and found God all along the 101 as I mentioned in last few posts. The third day we landed in Florence, Oregon. It was gorgeous. Our first trip to the beach found us in the center of an investigation due to a plane crash that had occurred that day. We were unable to go jump waves and build sand castles, but how can you complain when someone else has actually lost their husband, son, and grandchild on Father’s Day. It was a weird scene especially for a chick who has a severe fear of flying after enduring a small plane crash myself. We went into town and walked along the picturesque main street of this historic town on the edge of the ocean and sand dunes that seem to go into forever.

The following day, my dear Aunt Jan, who has a gift for hospitality that feels like it’s wrapped in an actual package with a bow on top, told us about this great lighthouse we should check out. We drove through the windy roads of 101 and got sidetracked at the sea lion caves. When we got to the lighthouse, we first toured an old historic home. Our tour guide was really somethin’. He started his informational vomiting with some statement about his wife wanting him out of the house. After 20 minutes of his cheesy jokes and his eukele playing and song singing, we knew exactly why the ol’ lady made such requests.

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We gladly scurried to the lighthouse after that tour. We walked up the staircase that led to the top. This tour guide explained why such lighthouses are necessary. She explained how each lighthouse has different colored lights and/ or differing amounts of time that those lights revolve, so that a lost sailor who yearns for home but has no idea where he is, could look at the light and the color it emits and how often and fast it revolves and it would tell him exactly where he was. He could look at a map and the light’s personality, if you will, would locate a sailor’s coordinates so that he could, through fog and storm, journey toward home.

Now I have to tell you that I was stunned. Not stunned, like you would be if Elvis was really still alive, but the kind of stunned when you learn something new and realize you have been wrong all along. I had always thought, and maybe I am the only one, because I am blond. But I had always thought that lighthouses were for refuge. I always thought they told stranded ships “Hey, if you are lost or need help, there is land here. There is help here.” I feel like the typical Christian lighthouse illustration makes a lighthouse to be that which shines light in the darkness. That might be partially true, but lighthouses are not shining light for refuge but for navigation. Lighthouses are letting people who cant find their way know where they are, so they know where they need to go.

That’s fascinating.

I started thinking about that. Sometimes we don’t need a refuge. Sometimes we need navigation. Sometimes we need a light that tells us exactly where we are at, how deep the waters are, where our current location is and in what direction we should point our sails. And sometimes that is what other people need too.

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If you want to be a lighthouse in a world of people who are in deep water, who are surrounded by fog and just want to get home but have no idea how to, don’t just flash some big blinding light in their eyes and say “You are in the dark. This is what light looks like.” People don’t need that. Especially people that you deem as dark and you think need the LIGHT. You know what they need? Warm, kind, soft, gentle light that provides navigation.

I started thinking about this as I watched this crazy light with facet after fact spin speaking to the boats at bay telling them where they are. And I thought, how can I be a person that helps people navigate where they are and where they need to go to get toward home, toward safety, toward their destination?

Navigation sometimes looks like sitting with someone and processing for longer than you really want to, a decision that needs to be made. Navigation sometimes looks like speaking truth to someone you are really concerned about because the waters they travel are so shallow they are about to get landlocked. Navigation sometimes looks like guiding someone toward the help they need even if it means you helping them get it. Navigation is not just saying you are LOST. Navigation and light always illuminate the path on which one is on.

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Sometimes I think people who want nothing to do with Jesus want nothing to do with Him because His people often just scream, “You are lost! You are screwed! You are wrong and the dark.” Or we just stand on a hill and shine pretty saying “We are over here enjoying safety sharing some smiles from up here on our hill while you are lost at sea!” We often do very little to help illuminate the way out of that darkness. Yet we are called to be people like our Lord.

When a community had handcuffed a man and scorned him over and over again trying to tame his darkness, Jesus entered the cutter’s life and sat with him until he was in his right mind. When grown men decided to take out their beliefs self righteously on a slut, Jesus stood with her despite the risk. He stood with this woman who was just caught in the act of sleeping with someone other than her husband until all her accusers were gone and then Jesus pointed light in the direction she should go. When religious people had lost complete sight of those in darkness, Jesus got ticked off and went postal outside the temple because they were using the one place that really lost, irreligious people could come and worship as a marketplace to make money.

Remember what Jesus said in Luke 11:46 to the people who were supposed to be “like God”: “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” Jesus, in a sense was saying: You don’t just enter into relationship telling people what is wrong with them unless you yourself are willing to help lift it! You don’t just scream “You are in the dark!” unless you yourself are willing to help shine light to navigate their path!

Sometimes, I imagine…and in my wild imagination, I dream in color and with fierce hope. And in wild color and fierce hope, I dream of a church and its people who will begin being the light of the world like Jesus is. It is in fact the one thing He says, He is, that we are. You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14

you are the light of the world

And when I imagine, I imagine you and me helping navigate the way for young teenage men who’ve lost their fathers. And I imagine us holding the hands of widows and sitting next to them as they look back and recall beautiful love stories and as they look ahead and hope for more. I imagine us investing in the ragtag kid, who is our neighborhood trouble maker, and instead of running from what might rub off on us, we invest, so that Light will rub off on him. I imagine us not just preaching, but showing up bedside to those who have given up and saying like Christ, I will not just see you sunday, but I will sit with you until you are in your right mind. I imagine us no longer living to prove we are “lighter” than our brother and our sister, but instead living to light up the path home for all those walking it.

Now I know my imagination can run away with me, but I am pretty sure Jesus not only imagines this, He said it to be so. You are the light of the world. If it be so, be the kind of lighthouse that brings other sailors home.

 

What I learned from Russell Wilson

RWPA

As I mentioned in my last post, God went on vacation….with our family. And not because we are ultra spiritual or because we make epic travel buddies. He goes on your vacations too. It is in the very simple moments of life that I often experience a profound God. On the first day of our trip we stopped in Seattle for the Russell Wilson Passing Academy. Our son, Aidan has a strong love of football and so we woke up early to get there on time. In Seattle fashion, it was a rainy day. We waited in a very long line of Seahawk fans to check in with some hot chicks who gave Aidan a camp shirt and off he ran to warm up. In ten more years, I think he would have gotten stuck at the check in table asking a myriad of really lame questions just to chat it up with the likes of these ladies. But he might be crushin’ on professional football players way harder right about now because… in he ran!

The camp was like most sport camps, except Russell Wilson, the inspiring quarterback who led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl this year was supposed to show. The camp was, after all, named after him. I expected him to make a small showing, maybe wave, sign a few autographs and be done with it. But no, RDub was present the entire day. He led the warm ups, he talked to the kids, he posed for pictures, he threw passes and he dished out advice. Now, I sound like one of those crazy Christians who has a crush on some celebrity just because they claim the same faith as I do. But that’s not it. This guy seriously showed up and spent time with the kids. It was over the top cool.

At one point when kids were going from one station to the next working on different aspects of the game, Aidan was at the passing station. He threw for a pass to a kid who ran long. As he drew his arm back to extend, I saw Russell Wilson walk up and watch Aidan pass. It was like time stood still. Aidan’s hero was less than 10 feet away watching him throw the ball. Russell Wilson smiled wide and then walked right up to Aidan, rested both his hands on his shoulders and said something. I was watching this take place through the rainy windshield of my car so I couldn’t wait for Aidan to get out of camp, so I could ask him what Russell said to the kids. Aidan calmly said, like it’s everyday that an NFL quarterback pours wisdom into you, “Russell said, the key to being a quarterback is to throw the ball so people can catch it.”

The key to being a good quarterback is throwing the ball so people can catch it. 

That might seem like obvious advice. Like, duh, RDub, you have to throw the ball so people catch it. But think about that. This guy has one job. All he has got to do is get that pigskin in the hands of those whose job it is to catch it and then they can run for the win. Here is a man who knows his job and knows the job of his teammates. He knows exactly what he needs to master so that other people can score!

I felt like God was there whispering to me in His great wisdom. Jeremiah 10:12 says God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. Daniel 2 says wisdom and power are God’s. Colossians 2:3 says all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ.

football campSo when I hear wisdom, wherever it comes from, I give God props because He founded wisdom. James 3:17 describes how you know if what you are hearing is God’s wisdom: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. When we hear this kind of wisdom we can perk up and recognize that what we have heard is of God. He has something for us to gain, learn, realize, receive. When I hear wisdom, I feel like my Father is teaching me. He is shaping me. He is filling me. And He uses others to do it.

So next time you hear wisdom from another that is pure, peace loving, fruitful and so on, you know it too, begot with the One who is all wisdom, the One who shaped Einstein’s cranium and who thought up Bill Gates and the apple before it was a fruit or a computer. So you can recognize this God who founded the Heavens and the Earth upon His wisdom and you can give Him a shout out.

We hear wisdom all the time, but it’s a matter of whether or not we stop and soak it in and allow God to teach us in it’s midst. So that’s what I did when Aidan passed me the wisdom that was passed onto the kids. I heard wisdom and wondered what God had in it for me to learn. I started thinking about Russell’s advice in terms of leadership.

The job of a good leader is to get the “ball” in the hands of those you lead so they can run for the win. There are people you manage, you coach, you parent, you teach, you employ, you serve, you care for, you minister to, you lead and they are made to run. They are made to score. They are made to win! They have a role on the “team” and all they need is the ball. Your job as “leader” is to get them the ball. A huge part of being a good leader is recognizing what your team needs to succeed and getting it in their hands. I started thinking about this as I lead people and God nudged me…”Willow, all you have to do is look at people on your team and figure out what you need to pass them so they can run for the win.”

These words came as timely advice as our Collide team grows and grows and I have more responsibility on my shoulders. I have had sleepless nights thinking, “Oh God, how can I do this?” And God keeps giving me simple advice on how to do the job that is before me. And He will do that for you to in whatever He calls you to do and whoever He calls you to lead.

God leads like this all the time. God knew Moses needed a staff and a friend to have the confidence to make a way for His people. God knew Gideon needed a pep talk and some straight up courage to carry out a rescue mission. God knew Jonah needed a whale to get his attention so he would run in the right direction rather than the wrong one. God knew Mary needed an angel to be willing to carry Glory. Jesus knew Zacchaeus needed a lunch date to start living for his real purpose. Jesus knew Peter needed fish, an exorbitant amount of fish, to finally be freed up to believe he could do what God made Him to do. Jesus knew the woman at the well needed water to really live. God sees what people need to fulfill their potential and  become who they were made to become.

When God leads people, He recognizes what they need, to get where they need to go. And He wants us to do the same.

On our drive to Portland, I heard God in His great wisdom remind me that we all have the great ability to lead people on the field and off to run into the end zone. The key is getting into peoples’ hands what they need to run,  score, and win. That is the job of a leader. So I share with you what God shared with me in His great wisdom.

Throw the people you lead confidence.  Throw them belief. Throw them direction. Throw them wisdom. Throw them resources. Throw them an “I believe in you.” Throw them a permission slip to run so they finally feel freed up to sprint. With the people you lead, what do they need to win, succeed, run, and score? You just might have within your reach exactly what they need to do the touchdown dance.

wholecampEvery receiver who has ever run for a touchdown had a great passer. Who can you pass to that is ready to run?

God on Vacation

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Sometimes I think, we think, God can only be found in places and spaces that have been deemed His. Like a confession booth or a church or your grandma’s house. And on occasion, perhaps, He will stop by other places to scorn someone or to point a finger, shaking it with wild frenzy at an adult child who continues to be so very naughty. Or maybe, we think, He stops by during that cup of coffee and what seemed like a coincidence might have been the Almighty moving His Divine chess pieces. But mostly, God is in the clouds, the rainbow after the storm, in children’s giggles and in buildings, especially the ones with stained glass and choirs. Or so we think.

But what if God is everywhere? What if we can find Him in the honey bucket as much as the pew? What if He were to peek behind our cubicle like He did behind a burning bush for Moses? What if God does not limit Himself to that which we deem His? What if it is true that He deems us as His and there we find Him?

My family and I just packed enough clothes to have to do without underwear for only a few days of a very long road trip. We logged over 3000 miles in our car. We played the alphabet game. We sped through rain storms and got sunburns crossing state lines. We saw the redwoods and more palm trees than we thought imaginable. We ate churros, bahn mi sandwiches and iced coffee in more places than we care to admit. We visited old friends and made strangers new ones. We counted down miles to the next stop. We heard “Are we there yet?” a hundred times. We taught our kids Def Leppard songs which might be the very reason we are truly hoping we can find God in a confession booth.

On this trip I heard God speak through Russell Wilson. I met God in a lighthouse. I understood the Lord’s heart on top of a tour bus in the heart of the city. I got some Truth when we were Shangheid in San Francisco. I remembered His Divinity when He said “It is indeed a small world” in the middle of Disneyland. I heard God question our happiness waiting in the longest lines for the shortest rides in what we deem the happiest place on earth. I asked God in the bathroom stall of a Chinese restaurant, “Can You use a fortune cookie?” …He might have answered. In the middle of the Redwoods, He told me what we should be looking for. God didn’t wait for me to come back and say hi next Sunday morning. I found God on vacation.

Contrary to what we often believe, God is not on vacation, unless you are…. and then He is. He is not away, busy at work, He is at our work. He is not in Heaven only, but also on Earth. God is not only in Church, but outside of Church.  I did not go on vacation from God, nor did He go on vacation from me. We traveled together.

This makes sense that God would be our travel companion. When you look at Jesus who was Immanuel, God with us, He traveled with men and women “on the way”. Jesus showed up and taught in a boat to a hillside of listeners. He sat and fished with men trying to, I am sure, catch the biggest fish. He journeyed toward weary travelers and collided with desperation at a well. Jesus saw Zach in a tree and said “Let’s have lunch” and called travelers to follow Him along the road. He did not just teach in synagogues. He did not just sit in the temple. He did not just speak in certain places at certain times. No, not Jesus, and even still, He travels with people and invites us to travel with Him.

Acts 17: 24 says:  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Over the next few weeks, as you summer, I will share the very simple ways I found a profound God in simple ways on vacation.  (So come back and visit or subscribe to the blog and follow along with me.) I am hoping that as I share my search for Him in my travels, you will begin looking for Him in yours.

Let us seek Him, reach out for Him and find Him. He is not far from any of us. – Willow