Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In Praise of Old Guys

Last week my son Caleb and I attended an event in Dallas called the “Quarterback Bowl.” It was held in Reunion Arena. It was a flag football game between local radio station personalities from “The Ticket,” a few unknown folks, and a group of former Dallas Cowboys. One team was quarterbacked by the Hall of Fame, three time Super Bowl winner, Troy Aikman. The opposing team was led by Hall of Fame, two time Super Bowl winner, Roger Staubach.

I must note here that Troy is just a few years out of retirement. He is only 39 years old. Roger on the other hand, is in his early 60s. On his team, Troy had Michael Ervin, Daryl Johnston and Jay Novacek. Roger had, Drew Pearson and Herschel Walker. By all that makes sense, Troy’s team should have won in a walk. But it didn’t go that way. Roger was… well… Roger. He scrambled, dodged and threw the ball on target. Short or long, Roger’s throws were on the money.

The next day the radio guys asked Roger if he would play again next year. He said that they should get some of the old Pittsburgh Steelers to come down so he could "even the score" with them. After all these years, he still has a fire in him to settle the score with an old rival.

The old guys won the game! I loved it. You see, I’m old enough now that I get called old by my kids. A while back the little girl at McDonalds tried to give me the “senior discount” – yeah I took it!

When I was looking for a youth ministry position, I was asked all the time about being too old for youth ministry. It’s not always a silly question. I’ve know guys in their 20s who were too old for youth ministry. It’s a matter of heart. My hero in youth ministry, Buddy Mills, is over 50. He belongs in the Hall of Fame if you ask me. Those who think we might be too old to work with kids wouldn’t think of telling the guys from Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, “You guys can’t relate to teens today you’re in your sixties.” Ridiculous!

I read about an old guy who still had it well into his later years. I named my son after him. I’m looking forward to meeting him someday. Caleb was 85 when he said, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day” (Joshua 14:11-12). So let’s hear for old guys who still have a passion for life, love, battle, football and the Father’s business.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Teenage Cool

In the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes, there is a surly character named Limbo. He is an ape that is sort of a slave trader dealing in humans. While trying to make a sale of a human child he issues one of the most memorable lines from the film…

“The young ones make great pets. Just make sure you kill them before they mature. Believe me, the last thing you want is a human teenager running around your house.”

I was in Spaghetti Warehouse when I saw it. It was a large wooden Indian standing on a pedestal. The Indian has its hand raised as if saying “How!” The hand is about 8-9 feel in the air. I was sitting at the table and I saw this lanky teenage boy walking along. Totally unselfconscious, he jumped in the air and gave the wooden Indian a big “high five” and then kept right on walking. He was not aware that anyone was watching him. That is teenage cool.

What kind of teenager do you suppose Jesus was? On one hand, I would think he was one of the cool kids. Very popular and well liked. On the other hand, I think it’s more likely that he was a bit of a loner; too serious, too religious, too grown up. I know he was smart and wise. But cool, I’m not too sure about that. I mean, I don’t know if his peers would consider him cool. But this one thing I know; cool is not in trying.

Being real is of greater value than having a reputation of being cool. Peter said of Jesus, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:22). Jesus was real. Being “uncool” is real. As Lester Bangs said in Almost Famous, "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." If you know a teenager the most you can offer them is to be honest and accepting. They can spot fake a mile away. You don’t have to be cool if you love them. And if you love them, you’ll be the coolest. It’ll be neat… Dawg!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Noblest Heart

I do not mean to trivialize our King or the redemption he purchased with his own blood. But if you’ll permit me, I would like to draw an analogy. In the movie, A Knights Tale, William Thatcher is found not to be of noble birth. In fact, he is the simple son of a simple peasant.

William stands in stocks in the town square. While being abused and mocked by a crowd, the son of the King comes forward. He stoops to have a conversation with William and notes that William is loved by his men. He says something like, “If I knew nothing else, that would be enough, but you lean in when you should withdraw.”

On a night when it was clear that we were not worth saving, the Son of the King leaned in. On a night when everyone abandoned him, the Son of the King leaned in. On a day when he could have called 10,000 angels the Son of the King leaned in. When he could have come down from the cross and saved himself, the Son of the King leaned in.

In the movie, the son of the King stands and pronounces to the crowd that William is nobility. His word is the final word and as such is “beyond contestation.” William is made noble by the actions of the son of the King. The same thing happened to us.

We were born into a sinful world. We had no righteousness of our own. We had no right to claim anything but the rightful consequences of our sinful lives. Yet the Son of the King stooped down, lifted us up and declared us to be nobility. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12.

I think one of the most moving scenes from the movie, The Passion is when Christ is carrying the cross and he seems to be embracing it, not so he can carry it, but in adoration of it. He loved saving us! That is leaning in.

There is no nobility on Earth like that of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. He truly has the Noblest Heart.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Invisible Touch

In 1986 the band called Genesis released an album called Invisible Touch. The title cut from the album is, on the surface about a girl. But it’s not a complimentary song. This girl is irresistible and then, destructive. Look at these lines.

She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
She reaches in, and grabs right hold of your heart
She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
It takes control and slowly tears you apart.

I think we’ve all known people with this personality type. These are nice people who, on the surface are endearing and charming, but the more you get to know them the more toxic you realize they are.

As I was doing some research last night I read a story written by Mother Teresa in a little book called, Loving Jesus. She is describing their work with people who have leprosy. When a mother who is leprous has a child, it is born clean and does not have the disease. If the child is not exposed by direct touch, then it will be safe from this horrible sickness. So they tell parents who are leprous that they must give up the child for their love of it.

Mother Teresa describes one scene this way. A mother and father who were both leprous had a baby boy. This happened when it was three days old just before it was taken from them.

“They put the baby between them, and each one looked at the little one. They extended their hands toward the child, and then they would pull back. They made gestures, wanting to kiss their child, and again they would pull back. I cannot forget the deep love that father and mother had for their little child.”

Jesus said, "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matthew 6:3). Just as these parents had the love of an invisible touch, so our service should as well. Their love compelled them to not touch their own child. We can demonstrate love with the care of touch. But we should also understand that there are many in the world today who need to know the Love of Christ and it can only be expressed to them through an invisible touch. An invisible touch of service compelled by love.
Loving Jesus - Mother Teresa pg. 95