Quitter

Jon Acuff’s “Quitter” is a must-read. My favorite chapter centered around what Acuff calls “hinge moments.” These are the times in life “when you are planning to do something standard and normal, something you’ve done many times before, like turn a key in the ignition. And then seemingly out of nowhere, something, a small detail usually, hinges you in a different direction” (541).

Acuff shares a list of helpful questions to ask during such moments:
* What do I love enough to do for free?
* What do I do that causes time to feel different?
* What do I enjoy doing regardless of the opinions of other people?
* If only your life changed, would that be enough?
* Are there any patterns in the things you like doing? (603-604).

He also draws an interestingly sharp contrast between the stories of Cinderella and King David. He writes, “It’s a sweet story, but it’s also incredibly quick and and easy. Cinderella may have spent years laboring under an evil stepmother, but after her hinge moment, things happen for her almost instantly” (1484).

Was that the case for another such underdog? The Bible reads, “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.’ And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:6-13, ESV).

He went back to Ramah? Acuff suggests, “Regardless of being anointed as the king, he immediately returned to the solitary life of sheep and big skies and big dreams, with oil on his head but a simple staff in his hand. It would be years before he’d ascend to the throne. He didn’t hit main stage right away” (1498).

Are we willing to wait? Are we willing to work?

I remember a conversation that I had recently with my lead pastor, David Brakke, about true success. He encouraged me to define success on every venture that I take. He advised me to make sure that my idea of “success” is more about obedience and less about expectation.

This was a timely read indeed.

Quitter

Leaven

Jesus taught, “Imagine a woman preparing a loaf of bread. The kingdom of heaven is like the leaven she folds into her dough. She kneads and kneads until the leaven is worked into all the dough” (Matthew 13:33, The Voice).

The Voice commentators suggest, “Without the leaven, the dough remains flat. But the secret is the almost invisible leaven making her loaves fluff and rise” (212).

God’s Kingdom was and is and continues to be a quick and quiet movement. The Spirit of God kneaded and kneaded and kneaded. Working and working and working – often with little to no results. Almost invisible. But very present. Before you know it, Jesus’s movement overturned an Empire with peace. They invited the poor and weak rather than enlisting the wealthy and strong. They would rather die than fight back.

So why do we expect it to be any different for the church today? Maybe we like the headlines a bit too much. We would rather draw attention to ourselves than to the One we claim to follow? We talk a lot about rights but not enough of true righteousness. We want people to like us. We want positions of influence rather than commit to be people of influence.

I love to see and hear of churches who are infiltrating a community with grace and mercy. They are seeing the need and filling the need. They share AND show the love of God in practical ways. And before you know it, the community is turned right-side up…the Kingdom is here.

Leaven

Debate

If nothing else, Tim Tebow has shown us that we see what we want to see and that is all that we will ever see. Nothing will change our pre-conceived opinions of him. For critics, it will never be enough. For the committed, it doesn’t have to be much. People have their reasons for hating him and others have their reasons for loving him – and Tim Tebow has little to say (or do) about it. Let’s face it, sometimes we just want a good fight.

But what happens when people argue over more than just football? When the debate is actually about the things in life that actually matter? You want to talk about divisive figures in history? You want to talk about embracing the outcasts and outraging the elite? The Bible says that the common people wondered of Jesus, “Could this be the Son of David [while the professional clergy remarked], “It is only through Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this Jesus can cast out demons” (Matthew 12:23-24, The Voice).

How could two very different groups look at Jesus and reach such very different conclusions? Was it just because they were so different? And wouldn’t you think that their responses would have been reversed? The sinners should have been ashamed? Fled? Fought? Wanted Jesus dead and gone and out of their lives once and for all.

But the experts in the Law? The ones who knew the most about God? Who did everything right? They should have seen Jesus for all that he really was. God in the flesh. They should have worshiped him.

So why do some respond in faith and others in fear? Why do so many rebel for so long only to finally repent? And why do others who claim to know God for so long tend to know him the least?

Can this be true of our churches? Who is attracted to the gospel and who is most repelled? Is it the same as it was for Christ? If not, are we actually being his Body?

Debate

Proof

Even John the Baptist had his moments. He had no problem dying – as long as it was not for a lie. He needed Jesus to come through for him. He needed Jesus to be who he thought he was – because from a distance, this was not what people were expecting the Messiah to be.

Jesus said, “Go back and tell John the things you have heard and the things you have seen. Tell him you have seen the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers cured, the deaf hear, the dead raised, and the good news preached to the poor. Blessed are those who understand what is afoot and stay on My narrow path” (Matthew 11:4-6, The Voice).

People want proof. Can you blame them? But are they getting what they need? Is the church sending the right message? Can they see what is happening in and through us and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is in all of this? Can we say to people, “Go back and tell them these things?” What would we tell them? What would we show them? What signs are we using to point people to Christ?

Proof

Travel

Jesus instructed, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me on the narrow road, then you are not worthy of Me. To find your life, you must lose your life – and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39, The Voice).

The Voice commentators suggest, “Whether [the apostles] die literally or figuratively, His followers give up their lives for Him” (183).

This makes me wonder what it would be like if a church actually embodied what Jesus was teaching in this passage. What if we took his instructions seriously enough to actually go out as the disciples did? With the conviction that the Kingdom of God was actually here among us? With the belief that we had been given much that we might turn around and give it all away? That we were ready and willing to lose everything for his gain? Does this mean that we spend less emphasis on inviting people to church and actually invite them to be the church? Do we ask of them more than they can afford because that is exactly what Christ has called us to give? What would THAT church look like?

Travel

Film

I have come to the conclusion that a great many of our traditions are just excuses to do what we most enjoy on a somewhat consistant and continual basis. And in most cases, such traditions are harmless and in other cases they might even be helpful. Tradition can build anticipation and foster community.

One of the sillier holiday traditions that I share with my father (and sometimes my brother if he is able to join us) is to go to a movie a day or two after either Thanksgiving or Christmas (depending upon what time of the year that we are all together). Here is a list of what we have decided to watch over the years:

  • War Horse (2011): Both my father and myself loved it (my choice)
  • Unstoppable (2010): All three of us liked it (my choice)
  • Avatar (2009): Both my father and myself liked it (my choice)
  • James Bond and the Quantum of Solace (2008): Both my father and myself liked it (my choice)
  • The Great Debaters (2007): My father and myself loved it and my brother liked it (my choice)
  • Deck the Halls (2006): My father loved it and my brother and myself HATED it (my father’s choice)
  • King Kong (2005): My father liked it, my brother loved it, and I hated it (my choice)
  • Christmas w/ the Kranks (2004): My father loved it and I liked it (my father’s choice)
  • Return of the King (2003): My father and stepmother liked it and I loved it (my choice)
  • Santa Clause 2 (2002): My father loved it, my brother liked it, and I disliked it (my father’s choice)
  • Ali (2001): My father loved it and my brother and myself liked it (my father’s choice)

I hope this tradition lasts for many years to come. So, what do these selections and opinions necessarily say about us (besides the fact that Denzel Washington releases a lot of films during the holiday season)?

Film

Draft

The first season of our keeper league for fantasy football is now complete. Read about my draft disaster at http://justinfarley.blogspot.com/2011/09/keeper.html. I started the season 0-2, had an eight game winning streak, and eventually ended the season on top of the pack. My team – or I should I say mine and Jana’s team – is officially the 2011 Champion.

Here is my season in a nutshell:
* Week One: Loss
* Week Two: Loss
* Week Three: Win
* Week Four: Win
* Week Five: Win
* Week Six: Win
* Week Seven: Win
* Week Eight: Win
* Week Nine: Win
* Week Ten: Win
* Week Eleven: Loss
* Week Twelve: Win
* Week Thirteen: Win
* Week Fourteen: Loss
* Semifinals: Win
* Championship: Win

Considering that this is a “keeper league,” who should I lock down before next season’s draft (which I will make sure that I am present for)?

Draft