"How much do you have to hate somebody…"

Watch this video from beginning to end. I did, and it gave me some great food for thought and hopefully food for action. And if you’d like, share your thoughts in the comments. By the way, the person you’re seeing is “Penn” of “Penn & Teller”, which is an illusion/comedy team. (Just in case you live under a rock.)

Legacy: Part 2: "Palpitations"

There are moments in my life from time to time where I remember that I’m alive. Do you ever forget? I do. I don’t mean “alive” as in breathing, I mean “alive” as in living. To me, there’s a huge difference between those two things. And just this past Friday, I was reminded of that in the most peculiar and slightly jarring way.

I saw something that I have never seen before and quite likely will never see again. And I suppose that I could have possible been quite injured or perhaps even killed. Faced with death, we seem to remember that we’re alive; and alive for a purpose.

I suppose that at some point in the future we’ll have the ability to upload from our mind to the internet something that we saw or experienced, so that everyone can see exactly what our eyes saw. The “helmet-cam” is as close as we’ve come so far. And I wish that on Friday I had a video camera mounted on the dashboard of the car I was driving so that you could see what I saw. You’ll just have to imagine.

I was driving my sister’s car (with her in the passenger’s seat) on I-95 Northbound. We had just gotten on 95 after meeting with my Mom at Roanoke Rapids, NC for an early lunch. There were no cars immediately around us and my speed was probably 75 mph or thereabout. There was a car-carrying 18 wheeler in front of us, one lane over, probably within 100 yards of us. Think a little less than a football field’s length and that’s about the distance from it to us. We were barreling along chatting when I looked at that truck and watched 2 of those truck’s tires (one on either side) pop off simultaneously. Let me rephrase that for clarity: 2 huge truck tires separate themselves from the truck on opposite sides of the truck. So now there are 2 truck tires, fully inflated, rolling for a split second NEXT to the truck but not ATTACHED to the truck. Again, we’re between 75-80 mph at this point. In shock, my initial instinct was to let off the accelerator and watch where the 2 tires were going. And I’m glad I did. The tire on the right slowly veered off to the right and into the ditch on the right side of the interstate. No harm. But the tire on the left, still rolling along down the interstate began to veer to the left and hit the metal guardrail separating the two sides of the interstate. When it did, it shot skyward and landed on the other side of the interstate, the Southbound side. There was another 18-wheeler barreling south and the tire hit the road just underneath the carriage of that truck (I mean the in the largest space between the front and rear wheels of the trailer. When it did, it flipped the loose tire like you would flip a coin and it bounced back into the sky, heading back to our side of the interstate.

Oh no. Few things are as unpredictable as a huge bouncing truck tire on the interstate.

I had reduced my speed just a bit, but honestly not too much because I didn’t want to be a “sitting duck” for the truck tire. Not to mention that you should keep in mind that from beginning to end, this entire event was probably within the span of 10 seconds.

Well, the tire landed again on our side of the interstate and bounced again, heading right toward us. There were still no other cars around us, so it was a showdown between us and the tire. With a presence of mind that I still find amazing, I waited (relatively speaking) until such a moment when I could better discern where the tire was going. Since it was in fact coming right at us, I swerved off the road at the last moment and then back on, leaving the tire safely behind us.

Has something ever happened to you, that made your heart skip a beat? I think its called palpitations. I’m pretty sure that in the moment of the swerving, I skipped a heartbeat.

I immediately called my wife to tell her that I love her. And I do. When we’re faced with uncertainly of life, we’re reminded that we’re alive. And not just breathing, but living.

"For such a worm as I…"

As a young boy, I recall vividly standing in the church service, hymnal open, singing the song, “At the Cross”. I know that for many churches and Christians, hymns and hymnals have gone the way of the dinosaur, but just this morning my memory and consequently my perspective were renewed as my mind flashed back to these words, originally written by Isaac Watts:

Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Newer hymnals and versions have taken out the word “worm” and have replaced it with “sinner” and some even with “For such a one as I?” That’s really too bad, and at the bus stop this morning, I was reminded of a profound truth.

My daughter Macy is the consumate performer. She lives her life on stage and doesn’t care who’s in the audience. She is constantly singing, dancing, strutting, joking, and anything else that might entertain anyone who might be watching, even if the only one watching is the 6 year old in the mirror. And I had thought that this had really “girly-ized” her. But recently, she has taken on a new role: Savior of Worms.

Its been raining quite a lot recently, and you know what happens when it rains: our driveways, streets, and curbs are awash with struggling, squiggling, slippery worms. And Macy has taken it upon herself to save as many of them as she can. She’s the only girl at her bus stop, and not one boy will touch a worm. Yet Macy, in her concern for their lives, faithfully stoops down, gives each one a gentle touch to see if its still alive, and if so picks up its wriggling body and tosses it back into the grass so it can find the soil again.

The reason why the word “worm” was removed from Isaac Watt’s hymn is unclear. However, I’d suppose that it has something to do with comfort. The image of a worm in our minds is not something most of us wake up with, and not something we tend to want to dwell on. But I suppose that’s precisely why the word should be left in that song, and as a result in our theology. A good friend and fellow pastor Scott Marshall put it succinctly, “We get our theology from our hymns.” And so as a young boy, taught the song “At the Cross”, I was also taught that before the holiness of God I am exactly (if not worse) that writhing, wriggling, wiggling worm–hopeless and helpless until the Savior came and put me back into a place of redemption and salvation. Had he not, well, I’d be dried up and dead.

So standing at the bus stop this morning watching my daughter go from one worm to the next, I was reminded of that childhood hymn and how it really has shaped my view of my sinfulness and worthlessness in light of God’s holiness. Despite the disparity between our two conditions, He reached down, picked me up off the pavement of sin and death, and restored me to life, hope, peace, and joy.

"imdiggingdeep" is getting buried!

Hello Mixxers!

I warned you.
You can’t say I didn’t.
We’ve reached the end of our “Digging Deep Without Getting Buried” series at The Mixx, and as promised, in just a few short days, this blog page will disappear faster than orange peels in my garbage disposal.

So, here’s the deal: If you still have a question or comment you’d like to post, you better do it NOW! ‘Cuz by the end of the week you will comment no more at imdiggingdeep.

Wipe those tears.

Still digging,

Outgrowing the old

My youngest daughter Macy just started riding her bike with no training wheels.

Great, right? Well…hold that thought.

I’ve been telling her for probably well over a year that she’d have so much more fun riding her bike without the training wheels. But, she’d faithfully protest and insist on riding with the training wheels. Okay, whatever. As a parent, its important to pick your battles. Fine kid, ride to high school with training wheels. See if I care.

But a few days ago, after seeing all the neighborhood kids riding their bikes up and down the street, Macy had an epiphany: “Maybe I should try riding without my training wheels, because that looks like a lot more fun!”

Really? You think so? Wow, I had never thought of that.

So, with no recollection whatsoever that the idea of riding without training wheels had been MY idea for more than a year, she came to me asking, “Daddy, will you take my training wheels off?”
So, off they came, and on she climbed, did a few trips down the gentle grassy slope in our front yard in order to learn balance (something that can’t be taught but must be learned), and she was pretty much good to go.

I came home 2 days ago to see her riding her bike with the other kids up and down the street in front of our house in her new found freedom. The new problem? She had waited so long to rid herself of the training wheels that she has entirely outgrown her bike. She looked like one of those circus performers riding one of those ridiculously small bicycles.

But having just stepped into a world without training wheels, where anything is possible, she was not about to wait for a larger bike. She was absolutley insistent on riding her bike–the one too small for her new life; the life as a 2-wheeler.

And ride she did. For hours on end, up and down the street, wind in her hair, smile on her face. Well, except for the split second, which occurred every half-second when her knees would hit the handlebars. And so she rode: wee! ow. wee! ow. wee! ow. wee! ow. wee! ow.

When she came in that night, she complained that her knees were hurting her. I’m not sure the picture I snapped this morning does it justice, but notice especially the inner half of her knees. The flash kind of washed them out, but there are dark purple bruises as a result of her insisting on riding a bike too small for her.

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Mark 2:22

In this passage, Jesus was speaking about the new life we have in Him. When we truly encounter Jesus in a genuine transaction of our past for His presence in our lives, we can’t pour old ways, old lies, old habits, old anything into the newness of life that Jesus offers. If we try and live “old” while Jesus wants us to live “new”, we’re doomed to burst.

So, is there any part of my life that’s “old” that I’m trying make fit into the new wineskins of a life with Christ? We’re told that when we receive Jesus, “behold, the old has gone and the new has come.” And if new has indeed come, I’ve got no business putting it into the old. Now, I’m an old-school NAS guy, but I really like how the New Living Translation (shown above) puts it: “New wine calls for new wineskins.” It’s as if the newness that Christ brings cries out for a new attitude from us, a new openness to new things, and a putting off of all that old stuff.

So, we went out last night and got Macy a “new wineskin”, in the form of an 18″ bike. Oh, it came with training wheels. But check the trashcan next to my house for those.

Just for fun, here are the 2 bikes (old and new) next to each other.

I’m not kidding.

Legacy: Part 1 of ?

When I look in the mirror, I see a man who has enough life behind him to have learned some things, and yet enough life ahead of him to still feel young. It’s a great place to be, in my opinion. And it’s also a place in my life of increased reflection. Wondering if by chance my life has made enough of an impact that if I were to leave this life today, would anyone have noticed that I’ve been here?

We as humans search for significance, don’t we?

This morning, my wife had asked me to help her look for our kids baby books. There was some information in one of the books that she needed. As I was looking, I came across a three ring binder with the decorative, hand-written words “Jerry’s Memories” on the front. This notebook contains page after page of pictures, notes, letters and memories from students and parents alike from our time in Nyack, NY. As I hurredly flipped through some of the pages, I began to sense that good HAS been done. People HAVE noticed. Perhaps their world WAS impacted by something I said or did. In this search for significance, even the slightest clue that we’ve made an impact is so gratifying.

Yesterday, I officiated at a memorial service for a woman I had never met. That detail was no big deal to me. In fact, my first funeral ever as a pastor was for a man I had never met. I keep this up, and that’ll be a specialty of mine–funerals for strangers. But whether I know the person who has passed away or not, these services always seem to have the same effect on me. I can’t help but wonder what will be said of me, when I’m the one being lowered into the ground.

For starters (as I plan on revisiting and adding to this blog; note the blog title), I suppose I’d do well to live as my Papa did. Papa was my Mom’s Dad. Well into his eighties, he cut the grass of his “elderly” neighbors. I can still see him now, pushing that lawnmower up the street to “go cut the ‘kids’ grass” as he’d say. Wow. What a life and attitude of service to others. I’d do well to leave what I’d call that kind of “lawnmower legacy”. A perspective on life that is not concerned with me, and more concerned with you.

Well, I suppose there’s much more to be said about legacy, but I need to get some coffee and get my day going.

"I guess he’s not playing the game…"

Two days ago was March, 17: St. Patrick’s Day. I sat in my office working diligently at my desk when a mother walked by with her young daughter, perhaps on the way to preschool or something. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the young girl look into my office and notice that I wasn’t wearing green on the day when everyone knows that anybody who is anybody wears green.

As they passed my office door, I could hear the girl say to her Mommy, “Mommy, why isn’t that man wearing green?!?” The mother responded, “Oh, I guess he’s not playing the game.”

Now, I’m sure Saint Patrick was a nice guy. I’m sure he did a lot of good for the world, or for leprechauns, or for somebody. It’s just that 12 years prior to this St. Patrick’s Day, I suddenly stopped giving two rips about Saint Patrick. And believe me, St. Patrick’s Day was always a pretty exciting day for me. I’ve even marched and played my trumpet in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. But 12 years ago, March 17 stopped being about green clovers, pots of gold, or little men in knickers. Why? Because my oldest daughter was born on March 17, 1997. And suddenly the traditions of a hollow holiday faded into nothing, and the day became about celebrating the birth of our daughter.

And I want the same to be true in my life of worship. Way too easily, what I tend to lean on are traditions and rituals and lose the focus of the relationship with God, my Creator. I can go about my everyday life with a sense of routine that leads me to feeling less than passionate about the love relationship with Jesus that He came to provide.

And I wish I had a nickel for every person who scolded me for not wearing green on March 17th. It’s simply because that day means something different to me.