Category Archives: Uncategorized

Escape

Escape rooms have been around for a while. Depending on whom you believe, a Japanese man came up with concept in 2007 or a guy in Budapest created the idea in 2011. These adventure games require critical thinking by solving puzzles through clues, hints, and strategies. There are fixed rooms and there are video games to challenge the most daring thrill-seekers. Companies and universities use escape rooms to provide a release for the over-stressed and over-worked. Like most other things, people get obsessed. You can confront zombies, pirates, terrorists, or kidnappers. You can find yourself trapped in a prison or a space station, looking for clues to break out. Since finding the secret to solve the puzzle is time-sensitive, you can also freak out.

Escape rooms? That sounds like a great idea for someone with the toughest job in the world … dealing with preschoolers. How about a person whose heart was broken over a failed relationship? Or the kicker who blew the game-winning field goal? Or the business woman who botched negotiations for a big deal in her company? Or the guy who sees no way out when life crushes his dreams?

There are times for all of us when escape sounds really good. Escape can be harmful when we are just trying to avoid reality. We can live in a fantasy world just so long before there are negative consequences. However, there are healthy ways to escape. Just changing up our routine might help. Recreation can truly be re-creation for the mind, body, and soul. Practicing the discipline of solitude can help us get centered.

That’s what Jesus did. There were times when He needed to escape … the demands of the crowds, the pressure of mentoring the disciples, facing the constant attacks of His enemies. The Bible records that Jesus would pull away, find a quiet place, and commune with His Father.

If escaping replenishes us and empowers us to stay the course, we owe it to ourselves, the people we love, and the commitments we have made to find a way. We weren’t created to run on fumes!

A Painful Discovery

It sank in twelve minutes. Two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine dealt the fatal blows. On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis had delivered vital components for the atomic bomb that would fall on Hiroshima and was headed back to base. Her secret mission ended with disaster. 1196 sailors and Marines were aboard. Hundreds were killed in the attack but most survived. 900 men went into the waters of the Pacific. Days later a plane spotted a raft and rescue operations finally commenced. Only 316 men were saved. The rest perished because of exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks.

After 8 years of searching, a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found the wreckage at a depth of 18,000 feet. CNN writer Immanuel Grinberg wrote an article about the discovery, quoting a relative of one of those who died: “After 72 years, the Indy might’ve finally been found, but I’m still lost in a sea of tears.”

Only about 20 of the survivors are still alive today. For some of them and the families of those lost, there is gratitude that the ship was finally located. For many others, the news opened wounds long thought closed.

Controversy has swirled about this tragic episode for decades. President Harry Truman was vilified by some, hailed by others. He made the decision to use a weapon that both cost and saved lives. War is indeed hell.

Even amidst the horror of vicious sharks taking men, there were stories of gallantry and sacrifice. A sailor who gave up his life jacket to a wounded man and then slipped below the waves … groups of men uniting to fend of the bloodthirsty predators … sharing the meager supplies of food and water. In the worst of times, the human spirit can soar.

We could use some soaring in our day.

Deeper

Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus: “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And you may have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is” (Ephesians 3:16-18).

Of all the things that concern us, shouldn’t we seek the safest place there is? Shouldn’t we center our lives on that which offers us peace, confidence, and hope? What is the antidote for the poison that spreads its malevolent destruction all around us? Fear and violence seem to be default settings these days, whether we are talking about North Korea or Charlottesville.

We are not called to hide from the darkness; we are summoned tp bring light into a dark world. We start where we are – one relationship at a time, one situation, one decision, one attitude, one act. Infused by the power Paul sought for the believers in Ephesus, we draw upon the greatest force the world has ever known. Fueled by a growing awareness and experience of God’s love, we are transformed as ministers of reconciliation … as bearers of good news … as messengers of hope.

Does that sound trite to you? Have you read the Scripture lately? Jesus didn’t promise an easy road, but He did promise to be present every step. He called those who would follow Him to a radical commitment. He never suggested that discipleship was simple or convenient.

Until we take seriously our calling, we will never experience what Paul prayed for the Ephesians. Can we really be satisfied with a comfortable, convenient faith? How can we?

Let’s go deeper!

Crutches

If you have ever had to use crutches you know they are both blessing and curse. Having had foot surgery a few weeks ago, I have been reintroduced to the fun of navigating through life with these sticks. I’m keeping score – only one face plant so far. Kim and I spent several days trying to rent, even buy, crutches. A friend came to the rescue. Another friend let me borrow a kneeler. Life is good. I’ve been challenged by one of our senior adults to a race in the church hallways. I’m in training now.

I’ve noticed that most often the word “crutches” has a negative connotation. Crutches symbolize weakness, a need you cannot meet without help. Unhealthy relationships, substance abuse, laziness, and stunted growth are just a few of the downside aspects of crutches.

When there is a physical reason for crutches, most people I know can’t get rid of them fast enough. Putting them down indicates a return to health and normal activity.

So how do we get rid of crutches? I love the stories about Jesus when He rid people of their crutches. Sometimes He healed them, but He would always urge them to take the first step, to throw away the crutch. Remember the guy who had been a paralytic for 38 years? It’s found in John 5. Jesus actually asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” Sounds like a silly question but some people cling to their crutches.

Jesus told the man to pick up the mat he had been lying on for so long and to start walking, He gave the man dignity and accountability. The guy could have just stayed on the mat, physically and mentally. He expected the man to take the first step.

In our world of so many broken people, we yearn to see people be healed in mind, body, and spirit. We have been called to help people get rid of their crutches, to encourage them to get off the mat and get back into life.

Perhaps you and I will get the opportunity this week. Let’s pray we’ll be ready.

Starting Over

Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever wished for a mulligan – a do-over? All of us have. We have known failure. We have suffered consequences for words we shouldn’t say or ideas we should have forgotten or deeds that have been hurtful.

The author of the first gospel could relate. A young man, full of promise and energy, was invited to join a mission team that included his uncle and the apostle Paul. Heady stuff. There is no record of speech in the book of Acts but his role may have been as scribe. Before Luke joined the team (Acts 16:10), young John Mark may have been responsible for writing down the details of their journey.

Then things went wrong. Perhaps he was just homesick. Perhaps he just wasn’t cut out for mission work like this. We are not told the exact reasons but the young man left the team and headed back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).

He left a mess behind. His uncle and the apostle would ultimately sever their partnership over the disagreement (Acts 15:37-39). Our mistakes can have a profound impact on others. Too often the consequences can be lingering or even permanent.

The biblical account doesn’t fill in the details but it was obvious that John Mark got the chance to start over. Later in Paul’s writing, we meet Mark again. In Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy, he is mentioned as being valued, even treasured.

Yes, we make mistakes. But do we have to let our mistakes define us? The best evidence we have that John Mark was restored you can hold in your hands and read with your eyes. Mark was the instrument through whom Peter speaks to us today. Much of Peter’s teaching and preaching, providing an eye-witness account of the life and mission of Christ, are found in the pages of Mark’s gospel.

We can overcome failure. We can learn from defeat. We can be shaped by the hard times of life to make us more fitting for what God wishes to do in and through us. Just ask John Mark.

The lost art of waiting

From Homiletics Magazine: “In the late summer of 2012 the Mars rover named ‘Curiosity’ landed on the surface of the red planet. It took just seven minutes for the rover to enter the atmosphere and touch down successfully – less time that a ride on Splash Mountain at Disney World. While most of the world tuned in and took notice of this amazing feat, many overlooked the fact that it was a long time coming – a very long time in fact. NASA engineers spent roughly 8 ½ months waiting.”

Who likes to wait? You stand in line and notice that another line is moving faster. So what do you do? You move into the apparently faster line only to see the register close or a person with fists full of coupons slow everything down. You pray, “Lord, give me patience.” Then He gives you something to be patient about.

We just don’t like to wait. We want our food fast. We want faster Internet. We cannot stand to wait. In our instant society, we pay a price for our impatience. We let impatience affect our moods and our actions. Just get behind the guy driving 55 mph in the left lane on the highway and let me know how that feels. Wait a minute, I already know. I’m not proud of the times when I get worked up about somebody’s pace of life that doesn’t fit mine.

Perhaps we should consider the things worth waiting for:

  • A marriage to grow deeper and stronger
  • A child to mature into a person who contributes to family and community
  • A walk with God that illuminates His love for us
  • A God-given ability to blossom
  • Brokenness to heal and forgiveness to be experienced

There are plenty of others. Today I was thinking about the father in Luke 15 who had to wait for the prodigal to come to his senses. Not all of our stories come out the way we want them to, but this one does. When the boy comes home, he finds a patient father who waited with a prayerful heart. When he arrives, he is engulfed by loving arms. Yes, he blew it, but now he gets a second chance, a new beginning.

Isn’t that the nature of God? We can find Him in the story. We can also find ourselves – either as the prodigal or the older brother. Jesus said we should treat others as we wish to be treated. That may require something that we don’t like to do – be patient.

66

Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri are given credit for coming up with the idea of a roadway linking Chicago and Los Angeles. Their dream sat idle until Congress approved a national program of highway development. In the summer of 1926, the projected road was officially designated as Route 66. Connecting urban and rural communities, the highway provided a significant way for a still young America to open the way west for people who had never left their small town to discover their vast country, for the trucking industry to get their cargoes across the nation, for the military to be able to more rapid mobilizations, and for people who were looking for a new start.

 

Finding ways to link people still matters. The wonders of social networking are products of this ever-expanding information age but Facebook will never replace face to face. We need to be linked, in good times and bad. We need each other’s presence. We need to close the distance between us, particularly in a day when our differences are being overemphasized.

 

We need community. We need to feel we belong to something bigger than ourselves. We need interaction to share our beliefs, opinions, and passions. We need human touch whether it’s a hug or a kiss, a slap on the back or a kick in the pants.

 

Speaking of kicks, Bobby Troup, former pianist for the Tommy Dorsey band, wrote a lyrical tribute to the famed highway and included the phrase “get your kicks on Route 66” – sung by Nat King Cole in 1946. John Steinbeck proclaimed Route 66 as the Mother Road in his 1939 classic, The Grapes of Wrath. In the 1960’s, a television series captured the nation, starring Martin Milner and George Maharis who drove their sporty Corvette down the famous road looking for adventure.

 

The route represents a basic need for humans – a need for adventure. But, just like the two guys in the sports car way back when, adventure is most often best experienced with people we care about. Thank you to friends and family for remembering me on my route 66.