Competitive Love

                Fall sports are going strong with every team trying to outdo the other.   Some–like Army’s Women’s Rugby that some of us are following closely these days–are consistently playing champion level games, while others might not be doing so well.  Regardless of performance, all strive for the same goal, coaches encourage teams to BE TEAMS, and to ever strive harder.  Have you ever heard of a coach telling the team, “You’re hopeless, just give it up and try not to get hurt too badly out there”?

                Sports teams—WHEN they are functioning well as a team (regardless of the scores they bring home), are about the best model these days of the kind of relationships God calls us to.  Coaches focused on building a strong team could very well quote this month’s memory verse in their huddles, and make it the team’s memory verse as well– “Love one another deeply. Honor others more than yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) Using the NRSV bible translation makes loving one another into a competition sport and ends with “outdo one another in showing honor.”

                This is a great verse for those of you who have a competitive side, or who have kids who like to outdo each other.  Encourage that competitiveness with this verse—you certainly can’t go wrong if you or the Little Ones in your care are encouraged to compete to “OUTDO one another in showing honor”!  So have that team huddle—whether with the family, your work team, or even the team you might coach—give’em that great pep talk, encourage them, push them, prod them, and end it with this month’s memory verse—“Love one another deeply, OUTDO one another in showing honor– Go, team, go!  Ready, break!

Coach Jim

Family Matters-Boo!

Family Matters—BOO!

                BOO!  It’s that scary time of year with spooky things around every corner!  How is it that we so enjoy these spooky times?  Whole genres of movies and books make all kinds of big bucks and huge industries are built around the scary, yet we hate the real fear?  Maybe we think the make-believe fear will help us better deal with life’s real terrors?

                I’ve done a lot of puppet shows over the years, and I think my favorite is built on the Veggie Tales song, “God is Bigger than the Boogie Man.”  It’s a great song that recognizes there are things in life that are scary.  But when we do encounter real challenges; God is bigger than all that. When we face the fears with the armor of God and in the presence of God, we can make it through any “valley of the Shadow of Death.”

                And just like scary movies, we are able to make it through much better when we share the fear with others (who wants to go to a scary movie alone?) Life’s real scary times are also best managed when we face them with a spiritual battle buddy by our side.  Whether you’re the parent comforting a scared child, the kid eager to face down fears (even if you need a little help along the way!), the one finding a companion with whom to face life’s haunted moments, or the one terrified by demons of cancer or disease seeking soul solace, God never intended for us to journey these dark paths alone.

This is a perfect time of year to remind our children, our friends, and even to remind ourselves, of the bible memory verse:  “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31: 6).  The Valley of the Shadow of Death can certainly be more real than any ghosts or goblins we might run across this month, but even more so is the peace and comfort God brings in and through those darkest of valleys.

                Good thing we’re in this Body of Christ together, so that wherever 2 or 3 are gathered together wrapped up like a mummy in the arms of Jesus, the Guardian of the Galaxy that is the Holy Ghost will be the Super-hero Friend that helps us put on the full armor of God to protect us as He guides us through every haunted moment we face!  So let whatever costume we put on remind us of how each day, God calls us to clothe ourselves in Christ, to take with us wherever we go, the perfect love that casts out all fear.

Getting all dressed up for the season—Rev. Jim

Family Matters- The Bible and Wrestling

Family Matters— The Bible and Wrestling

              It’s always early in the school year when the memories of junior high wrestling flood back to me.  I was the littlest guy in the class, not very athletic—NOT a good thing in PE wrestling class.  Actually, I was the second littlest—I remember praying through every weigh-in that there would be at least ONE guy smaller than me—and there was, but only by a pound. 

He, however, was the wiry athlete.

I knew him well enough to know he had been trying to prove himself for years in a rough neighborhood, so even though I beat him by a pound, my heart still sank.  Sure enough, the first time we got on the mat together, he humiliated me, hoisting me over his shoulders and spinning me all around in an act worthy of a WWE Smackdown match.

                That single experience is forever seared in my memory. Decades later, it’s something to laugh about, but certainly not at the time. My young soul facing the dark years of humiliation ahead, through middle school and high school!  I was part of the church youth group at the time, but what hadn’t really clicked yet was the part about “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Had I been able to trust God in understanding who I was at the time, perhaps I could have used that experience as an opportunity to connect with some guys I wouldn’t otherwise have had anything in common with.  After all, another good scripture that works great in a Kid Survival Kit reminds those of us fitting the Wimpy Kid syndrome: “I take pleasure in my weaknesses… for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 10)

Another of my most memorable experiences was much more recently, at a funeral for a young Soldier killed in action, doing the service in a packed high school surrounded by those who knew him best.  One story at the service was of when he took his own money and bought a pair of those expensive basketball shoes—not for himself– but for a friend who couldn’t afford it, powerfully living out in a high school way, Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.

I remember that wrestling incident as one of the worst experiences of my school career.  How different it could have turned out both then and now, had I used those Bible Survival Tools to turn that experience into a relationship catalyst?  Turns out this stuff in the Bible isn’t just good for Sundays, but when it gets into our hearts, can provide powerful survival tools to help kids bless others, and for the rough times in the school yard (or the office or shop…) as well. 

Helping all generations learn and live the scriptures—Rev. Jim