March 17, 2012

Loving Through Awkward

I hate being in places or situations that make me feel awkward. Don’t you?

It’s not that the places or situations that I am in are “good” or” bad” that cause me to feel awkward, usually I feel awkward because I have not been in that particular place or situation before, and I don’t know how to act or behave. (Heck, I have been in the same place or situation many times again, and I still felt somewhat awkward.)

Think about your first kiss. Was that awkward? Come on now. Think about all the things that led up to that first kiss. All the thoughts that went through your mind weeks and days before that kiss. The things you `watched on TV or in real life to get a heads-up on what a good kiss should look like. Remember the conversations you had with your close friends (some who had already experienced their first kiss, and others who hadn’t, but since they were your best friend you listen to their first kiss advice and tactics anyway)

Awkward, I tell you. AWKWARD.

But thank God, I didn’t quit.

Heck, many of us learned to get over that awkward feeling so well that we would actually look forward to sitting around with a bunch of our friends, spin a bottle, and then a guy and a girl would go into a closet and have their “first kiss” with each other while the rest of the group made strange noises outside the door. (Shut up, you know you’ve done something like this…or at least heard about it)

So many good things can happen when we learn to overcome awkward in a healthy way. In fact, if I had avoided kissing in order to avoid awkwardness, I wouldn’t have gotten a second kiss (or a third kiss for that matter). Yes, avoiding “awkward” could have cost me 29 years of a happy marriage.

Jesus had the same kind of approach when it came to overcoming (not avoiding) awkward.

Time and time again in the Bible, we see Jesus coming across a situation that was awkward…like the time some religious leaders brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, in order to get his nod of approval to have her stoned to death (which their laws said was just and reasonable punishment).

Talk about AWKWARD!

Awkward for Jesus…Awkward for the woman…Awkward for the religious leaders.

But awkward didn’t scare or intimidate Jesus. Jesus didn’t hide from awkward, or avoid it, but rather Jesus overcame awkward.


With Love.

Jesus loved through awkward! He loved & forgave the woman who had messed up…His words to her, “go and sin no more”.

Jesus loved those misguided religious leaders who may or may not have had good intentions, but definitely missed the mark when it came to humility, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. Jesus reminded them of what they really looked like in the eyes of God by saying, “you without sin, you go ahead and cast the first stone”.

Jesus’ actions always match His words. Jesus always loves us through awkward.

This is one of the things that I love so much about LifeSpring Church where I pastor.

We all remember awkward…
The first time we visited the church, the first time we were asked to serve, the first time we met someone who had different values and upbringings, the first time we met people might know our past, our ex-spouse, our mistakes, our short comings, our failures, our lifestyle choices…

And since we remember our awkward past, we don’t avoid awkward with others, we simply love others through it (like someone did to us).

We are learning every day new ways to love others through awkward, just like Jesus loves us through awkward.

Below is a blog post by Seth Godwin that stimulated my thoughts about the hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another. He reminded me that what we say isn’t the problem. It’s what we do.

I choose to love through awkward, what about you?

Blog post by Seth Godwin

We say we want a revolution...

Of course, what we say doesn't matter so much. What we do is what matters and we have far more influence that we'd like to confess.

We say we want local merchants to offer great service, deep selection and community values, but we cross the street to the big box store to save $3.

We say we want companies to honor their promises and act transparently, but one new product or big discount from a business that has deceived us in the past and we come right back for more.

We say we're disgusted with Congress, but almost all of us vote to re-elect the dufus we sent there in the first place.

We say we hate spam, but we send it. And sometimes buy from it.

We say we'd like people to think first and act later, but we get cut off in traffic and all bets are off.

We say we love art, the brave work that touches us, but we listen to oldies and rarely head out to hear live music or visit a cutting edge gallery.

Hypocrisy may be an epidemic, but the problem isn't in what we say. It's what we do.

March 7, 2012

Momentum: It’s essential to moving forward

Today I learned an important lesson on the ski slopes on Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia about MOMENTUM.

It's been nearly 5 years since my last attempt at skiing. In the first couple of hours, I am proud to say that I only fell once, and it really wasn't a bad spill. Skiing on a recovering stress fracture in my shin did have me moving very gingerly across the snow.

It was then that I came across a long, basically flat section of snow. After slowing down as I came down the hill (fear of falling at a high speed compelled me to slow down), I realized that I didn't have enough momentum to make it through this flat section of the ski trail.

I leaned forward as for as I could using my ski poles and upper body strength to keep me moving forward.

And then it happened. Moving at a snails pace, leaning forward, trying to pick up momentum, I lost my balance and fell face first in the snow. (For those of you who know me, no curse words came out…not because they weren't on the tip of my tongue, but after the word "OH…." came out of my mouth and before the next word did come out, my face was in the snow, my open mouth full of snow, and my skis were sticking straight up in the air…Imagine me kneeling face down to pray with my face on the ground and my backside up in the air, and you sort of get the picture)

My lack of momentum caused me to press forward hard to get it back, and I busted my face in the process (only a small cut, and some "snow rash" on one side of my face, and what looks like half my eyebrow hair is gone…I may blog about this another day).

Momentum is one of those things that when you have it, you know you have it, and when you lose it, well, you know you've lost it. Without it, there are times you feel like whatever you do, no mater how hard you try, you just can't get on track.

Momentum is important in skiing for sure, but it is also important in one's life and in the life of a church.

People & churches spend great amounts of time trying to get momentum, countless hours of energy trying to keep it, and when it's gone, they struggle trying to figure out "how the heck did we lose it".

The truth is, if we are going to find the results we as individuals are hoping for, and the "fruits" our church is striving for, we definitely need momentum in both areas.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, outlines the two elements of momentum; creating it and sustaining it. Here are four of those points.

  • If you want to create momentum you are going to have to change something.

  • Change always produces conflict.

  • You have two choices to deal with conflict.

    • Choice one is to back off when you are in conflict. This will result in decline.

    • Choice two is to push through the conflict and the results will produce growth.

  • If you want to sustain momentum you have to practice certain "key routines" in "excellent ways" over and over.

Here's a couple of things I have learned about momentum in life, in the church and in skiing.

First, momentum is not constant. It comes and goes, moves up and down, and is a lot like a wave on the ocean.

Second, though many may disagree, I believe that people, a church, even a team can do things that can help them catch the wave of momentum when it comes by.

So, with all this said, how should I catch momentum, in my life, in my church, and in skiing?

Well, you really can't just sit back and wait for it…because momentum most likely won't just come to you. I could have waited for someone to come by and give me a "push" when I slowed to a stop skiing, but no one was stopping to do that (just like no one offered to help me up after my face first crash).

For many people, they are caught in this trap of hoping for momentum to just come back to them, and use this as an excuse to just do nothing while telling others they are actively watching and waiting on the signs that momentum is passing by, and then they will "jump on board".

I believe that if your have lost momentum in your life, your church, or your team, you have to begin by DOING SOMETHING…EVEN AT THE RISK OF FALLING FLAT ON YOUR FACE!

Change something!

Don't keep doing the same things and expect different results.

Get a quick win!

Don't just talk about it for 6 months, find a change that will have a positive impact on attitude, and JUST DO IT! Start something new every month if necessary, knowing that half will make it and half will "fall face first into the snow". The half that make it will give you enough momentum to overcome the crashes.

Do certain practices well, over and over!

The only way to sustain something is to do it well over time. Keep practicing! Don't give up! Don't let a failure, a head first crash, or a few people stop what you need to do! If they want to be critics in the stands, fine, but if you're like me, we're in the game of life and want old "mo" on our side.

Lead by example!

Understand that people watch what we do. If you try something to catch momentum in your life, church or team, and crash face first in the snow, and quit, what example are you sending to those following you (like your family, church family, or your self-esteem). Get up, try it again. Try something else. But don't quit after the 1st try. Let people know by your example it's ok to strive for something that is important and miss the mark, but it's not ok to quit after just a few tries.

Momentum is essential in moving a skier forward.

Momentum is essential to moving a congregation forward into a new future.

Momentum is essential to individuals move into their God given potential and purpose in life.

Momentum; GET SOME!