Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hoopin' It Up -- Follow Up

What a ton of fun. There was basketball being played everywhere in downtown Spokane. It was a spectacle to see hundreds of hoops and players of various ages and skills competing.

The first game of the “Brew Crew” was at 8:00 a.m. Saturday. We showed up about 7:30 to warm up. The sun was already blinding which meant that shooting from one side of the court was virtually impossible. Games were played until the first team scored 20 points or whoever was ahead after 25 minutes.

We lost the first game in a close battle. Later in the day we saw that team again and they crushed their next opponent. We felt better about the way we played.

Our second game was a “must win” at 12:30 p.m. Double-elimination meant that whenever we lost our second game we were through. The temperature was in the mid-90’s and our shooting was just as hot. We easily beat the second team and were scheduled to play again at 4:30.

The third team was a little more difficult but we again prevailed with yours truly hitting the winning shot. Next game, 6:30. Need I say that at this point the gas tank was completely, I repeat, completely empty.

Justin and Jon continued to play well in the fourth game but I couldn’t do my part and pretty much cost us the game. Yep, the “Brew Crew” was eliminated after four games. What a great time.

I’m grateful that I still had enough ability to join my sons in the competition and that they wanted the old man to play. I’m grateful for a wife and daughter-in-law who were supportive and encouraged us to have this weekend together. I’m grateful for loving friends who covered my responsibilities at church on Sunday during my absence.

One historic confession of faith says that man was created to know God and enjoy Him forever. How do you enjoy God? Certainly I enjoy God in many ways. For years now I've enjoyed God in a special way in the game of basketball. I enjoyed God a lot this weekend.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hoopin' It Up

Stay tuned to see if my next post is written from the hospital. Today I drive to Spokane with my sons, Justin and Jon, because we are the “Brew Crew”.

That’s right, we’re a team and we’re competing against 6,400 other teams and around 20,000 participants in the annual Spokane Hoopfest 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

The forecast promises sunshine and temperatures in the 80’s which is a factor since all of the games are played outdoors in downtown Spokane. So if I don’t break a leg or get a herniated disc I can always succumb to dehydration or sunstroke.

Seriously, I’m looking forward to hanging out with my sons, playing some hoops and joining in the festivities. I’d love to come back and tell you how I dominated the field and showed everyone that the old man’s still got it, but I’ll settle for having some fun and being able to walk off the court.

Meanwhile I’m counting my blessings that I have health, a game that has been a great pleasure to me for years, two sons that also enjoy the game and that they actually asked me to do this with them. Oh yeah, I also paid the entry fee but I’m sure that didn’t have anything to do with their invitation to play.

More later…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Joy of Service

Tuesday was my 30th wedding anniversary. My wife is to be commended for grace, patience, forgiveness and faith for being married to me but that’s another story.

To celebrate we went to El Gaucho’s, a tremendous restaurant in Seattle known for their steaks. They should also be known for their service. We had the best greeting by the hostess that I’ve ever had. Authentic, enthusiastic, pleasant and with full eye contact we were welcomed, confirmed for our table reservation and congratulated for our anniversary.

After being seated the entire wait staff was the picture of professionalism, helpfulness, friendliness and not the least intrusive. They gave the impression that their job was to make your dining experience memorable.

Everything we ordered was prepared at our table. The skill involved in the creation of each dish was entertaining to watch and it was done to perfection (imagine flaming cherries jubilee). I began inquiring how long each had been performing these tasks. Not surprisingly each had been doing so for years and literally in the tens of thousands of times they had tossed salads, cut and presented the main entrees and delighted with desserts. I had to then ask why they had done these things for so long. The quick reply was that they enjoyed what they did, the team with whom they worked and the customers they served.

I immediately reflected on what I do and how I feel about it. I’ve presented 2,000 talks or messages or sermons. I’ve conducted hundreds of hours of counseling and thousands of hours of leader coaching. I could go on but the looming question was, “Do I enjoy what I do, the team with whom I work and those whom I serve?” My quick and clear answer is YES. I love what I get to do and with whom I get to do it.

But the second question didn’t have as quick an answer. Is the joy I have in serving obvious to others? Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

I had a wonderful time with my wife and a stirring experience that has inspired me to be a better me.

I’ll leave you with the same questions. Do you enjoy what you do? Is your joy obvious to others?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Here's a Good Deal on a Casket

Someone sent me this picture. My wife likes to go to garage sales and yard sales but I can promise you she has never seen someone selling a casket during her weekend treasure hunts.

When I saw the photo my first response was to laugh out loud but my second response was, “What are they doing with a casket?” Did they bury a loved one and later decide he didn’t really need a casket that nice and therefore they placed him in something else and now have a nice casket for sale?

Then it occurred to me that Costco and others now sell caskets and some people are pre-buying (buying before they need it) their casket so they don’t have to pay the jacked-up price of a funeral home. Maybe this person got a deal on their casket but later found their cash flow to be tight and therefore tried to sell it to pick up a few bucks. Whatever.

I just know that I’m prepared to die (I’m reconciled and at peace with God) but I’m not ready to be buried (I haven't pre-purchased my casket). Maybe I need to find out where this sale is, but then again, storage is a problem for me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Joy of the Lord

I recently picked up a copy of Tony Dungy’s memoir, Quiet Strength. Dungy is the head coach of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts who were winners of the Super Bowl in 2007. It’s a great read whether you’re into football or not. It’s mostly about life, character, values, leadership and especially how Dungy’s life is impacted by Jesus Christ.

When Dungy was playing for the Pittsburg Steeler’s, one day he was doing his summer workouts at Three Rivers Stadium. In those days the Steeler’s football team shared the stadium with the Pittsburg Pirates baseball team. When Dungy finished the workout the Pirates’ players were showing up and getting ready for an evening game. The Pirates’ locker room was noisy and boisterous. Guys were playing loud music, cooking chicken on the grill, playing cards, watching TV and generally enjoying being with each other.

This was in stark contrast to the Steeler’s locker room during football season. The Steelers were all business. Their locker room was always quiet, focused, and intense.

The contrast was bothersome to Dungy. In the hallway Dungy ran into Pirates all-star Willie Stargell. After they chatted for a moment Dungy asked Stargell about the Pirates’ locker room atmosphere being so noisy on a game day.

Stargell laughed and said to Dungy, “In a little while we’ll take the field and then the umpire will shout, ‘Play ball!’. He won’t say ‘Work ball!’ It’s a game Dungy.”

That comment has continued to impact Dungy to this day and has influenced how he approaches his coaching.

The minute I read that anecdote I sensed God speaking into my own heart. I’m an intense guy. I take life and service to God very seriously. The mission of Christ to save and redeem those who are headed toward eternity lost from God is life and breath to me. Yet in that moment of reading I sensed God saying to me, “Scott, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). With all of your seriousness, don’t forget to enjoy Me.”

In that moment I decided that I was failing to enjoy God and that I had better seriously enjoy Him. Whoa. I was about to miss what God inviting me to experience with Him.

“Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Monday, June 16, 2008

When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go

Monday I had the privilege of officiating over the wedding vows of a wonderful couple in a marvelous setting. Sculpture Park in Seattle provides a walkway along Elliot Bay that is lush with green grass. The sun was bright, the water blue and the mountains were snow capped. It was a beautiful setting for launching a lifetime relationship.

We settled on a spot that had a slight overlook to the bay and was about five feet from the walking trail. I had my back to the water and the couple was facing the water. While I was reading scriptures and speaking prayers and calling for vows, numbers of people were walking by. Almost everyone began smiling once they noticed what we were doing. Several paused and listened in. Some pulled out cameras and took pictures. Others jogged by barely looking up.

Of course the couple was unaware of the movement behind them. I was doing well at maintaining my focus. After all, these friends were wholeheartedly speaking love and commitment to one another. I loved it. But at one strategic point a man walked by with his dog, and can you guess what happened next? Yep, the dog suddenly stopped. The owner pulled on the leash but the dog wouldn’t move. While I’m talking the dog arches his back and dumps.

To his credit the owner had a baggie and quickly cleaned up after his dog. We finished the wedding and I hugged and congratulated the couple without mentioning the dog scenario. The dog wasn’t trying to be offensive or malicious. When you gotta go, you gotta go. However that image has been reappearing in my mind all afternoon.

Everything was perfect. The weather, the scenery and the couple all looked perfect. And then there was the dog. And that’s life, isn’t it? You deliver a great product or provide excellent service and a colleague “dumps” on you. You plan a fun-filled outing for the family and one of the kids is in a mood and “dumps”. You sacrifice and generously provide for someone in need and rather than offering gratitude they “dump”. And sometimes you and I “dump” on others.

By God’s grace we’ll continue to take out the baggie, pick it up and move on down the trail.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How willing am I to forgive?

Occasionally I see or hear something and it strikes me as so different from myself that I marvel. For 18 years the church that I serve has been a portable church. For a little over 3 months now we’ve been in our own permanent place. During the nomadic days we kept nearly everything we owned in a trailer. Every Sunday we’d pull the trailer up to a school that we rented and we would unload sound equipment, lighting, staging, nursery beds, toys, supplies, children’s education furniture, communion trays, Bibles, and the list goes on.

If you’re not aware of churches operating this way it has been going on for years.

In March, Kinetic Church in Charlotte, NC, had their trailer stolen by some unknown thief. That trailer contained over 75% of everything they owned. What would you do?

I can imagine grieving, being angry, asking the church to pray for the thief but I would never have thought of doing what Kinetic Church did. They bought billboards around the city advertising to the thief that they forgave him. The pastor posted a message on their web site and on YouTube (pasted below) inviting the thief to contact him because the pastor would like to take him/her out to dinner and just get to know him/her. The pastor went on to assure the thief that he/she would feel comfortable in their church because they have a lot of screwed up people in their church that God is saving and transforming.

I’m grateful that God gives us grace to forgive. I also yearn for God to work in my heart so that I don’t just forgive from distance but that I would also want to get up close and personal in a compassionate and redemptive way.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How much do I care?

Every now and then an image strikes me and it gives me cause to pause and reflect on the state of my heart. How much do I care about what is going on in the lives of those around me?

Check out the 45 second clip below and not only notice what happens but especially what doesn’t happen.

Every day people around us are struck down by the “vehicles” of rejection, condescension, judgment, superiority, poverty, injustice and apathy. What am I doing about it?