It’s More than Mario!

This summer I have watched some amazing people put down their pride in order to love on children. Some of them have transformed themselves into imaginary people. Some have given a weekend to kids from another part of town. And some have traveled to another country – just to share their love and increase the joy of children.

Do you remember what it was like to be a child? The imagination you had? The capacity for play? Take for instance, your first experience with a gaming system. Do you remember the fascination you had with the images on the screen? And the new addiction that was created as you became determined to conquer the game or at least better your latest score?

My first exposure to this world that effortlessly combines imagination and competition was at a friend’s house. As soon as I walked in, he told me he had just gotten an Atari and asked if I wanted to play. I said, “Sure!” – not really knowing what I was getting into. And then, for the next few hours, I was introduced to the now classic games of “Pong,” “Pitfall,” and “Centipede.” I have to admit, I wasn’t that good but it didn’t matter. It was an amazing experience and I couldn’t wait until I got to play again.

A couple of years later, I got my own system, but it wasn’t an Atari. It was the next generation…the new and improved system…you know, the one that was going to put Atari to shame with its updated graphics and more expansive game options. You know…Colecovision! I was so impressed with my parents for getting me such an advanced system. My brother and I dove in. We were totally consumed with all the newness and wonder of games like “Donkey Kong Jr.,” “Lady Bug,” and a game we affectionately came to call “Bomb & Burn” – simply because the only way we could get through the maze of obstacles was to go guns blazing as fast as we could.

But then, it happened. My family was invited over for dinner to a young couple’s house. They had become good friends with my parents and my brother and I thought they were pretty cool too. They were in their late twenties, didn’t have any kids and always made time for us.

We had dinner, talked for a bit and then Bobby, the cool family friend, invited us over to see his new toy. He turned on the TV, plugged in a few wires and up comes a screen unlike anything I had seen before. The images were amazing! “This is the latest thing,” Bobby said. “This is a Nintendo!”

That was the first time I ever saw Mario. The first time I ever imagined jumping over a mushroom or intentionally hitting my head against a brick to gain more points. And to this day, if I hear the Mario Brothers theme song – there’s a little bit of joy that comes over my heart.

Childhood is such a magical time. It’s experiences shape us deeply. Both its joy and it’s struggles have a way of hanging on and working their way into the fabric of our hearts as adults. The love we experience. The lessons we learn. The time spent with family. The loving adults who gave selflessly to us – it all impacts us in ways we can’t explain but are forever grateful for.

Question: Who introduced you as a child to little but unbelievable moments of joy? Who is that person who loved you enough to invite you into their world? Who in your past deserves a really big, “THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME LIKE THAT!”

And possibly more important than that…Who are you offering yourself to as an adult? Is there a child in your life that you are pouring yourself into? That you are intentionally working to increase his/her joy?

Believe me, even if it’s just sharing a video game, it could impact a heart forever!

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Preserved vs. Repressed Sexuality

Sex plays such a dominate role in our culture. It drives our advertising and our entertainment. Whether it’s overt or subtle, it seems to be everywhere.

Question: How do we deal with this as followers of Jesus? How do we participate in this sex saturated culture and yet live differently? What boundaries do we place in our lives?

And possibly even more important…how do we guide our children and our single adults through this extremely difficult maze? This is a question we really need to spend some time on. What we teach here really matters. It will influence not only their actions but their hearts. It could directly impact whether they receive the gift of sex truly as a gift or as something else entirely.

Last week, I ran across a tremendous post about this. It directly addresses how so much of our Christian community has dealt with sexuality and the potential struggles we create within the hearts of our children and single adults. Take a look, it’ll be well worth your time!

Preserved vs. Repressed Sexuality.

Jacob’s Dream…Our Reality!

A few years ago, Abilene Christian University commissioned this sculpture to be constructed just outside of their School of Theology building, called “Jacob’s Dream.” It depicts the dream Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) had in Genesis 28, where he saw a stairway reaching from earth to heaven and angels climbing up and down on it. It was in this moment that God reconfirmed the promises he made to Abraham…to give his descendants the land he was on…to multiply his descendants like the dust on the earth…that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through him…and that God will not leave him.

What an incredible story! What would it do to someone to see a glimpse of the eternal so clearly? And to hear the voice of God, loving you and promising to use you to bless the entire world! How would it change the way you would think of God? See the world? See people? Could you ever go back to the way things were?

The two girls standing underneath the ladder are my daughter, Reagan, and her friend, Sidney. They were just finishing their week of camp at ACU and had to have one more look at the sculpture. They had an amazing time and shared their experiences with — well — enthusiasm. They told us about their friends and all the fun they had. Then they talked to us about God, his promise to come back and that he will recreate a place for us to live with him forever. As they talked, I couldn’t help thinking that we were, in that moment, experiencing some of God’s promises spoken during Jacob’s dream. That these two beautiful little girls have received a taste of the kingdom of God!

In the camp’s closing ceremony, they showed a camp video for the parents to enjoy. Then, in their final act of camp, they asked all the students to stand and repeat a pledge that grew out of their week. It was a tremendous site, seeing a couple hundred elementary students declaring who they intend to be as they participate in the Father’s kingdom.

Here is that pledge. As you read it, consider how different our experience in this life would be if we commit to living this way with every breath we take. If we declare that we have encountered the God of Jacob, been invited into his kingdom and there is no turning back!

Kingdom of God Pledge

Because I have been invited into the throne room of God

Because I have been adopted into the family of God

Because I want to be a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven forever

I hereby renounce any allegiance to the kingdom of earth

and any other god other than the One True God who created me and loves me.

I hereby declare that it is my heart’s desire to do God’s will on earth

just as it is done in heaven

So I will work to heal those who need healing

I will seek to know God’s will and obey it

And I will seek to fight injustice wherever I encounter it

Until God calls me home or Jesus returns to take us all home to heaven.

To the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Do You Have Time To Be Interrupted?

A phone call from a friend, when you feel like you are all alone. A meal delivered the moment you realize there is nothing in the house to eat and you are out of money. A text from someone you haven’t heard from in years, asking how she can pray for you on a day that you don’t have the strength to talk to God. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had someone step into your life at exactly the right time? Have you ever been cared for in extraordinary ways when you hadn’t mentioned your need to anyone?

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened in my life. Every time, I am taken back. Humbled. Honored. And reminded that I am deeply loved!

This is what happens when Jesus followers say, “Yes!” to God. Indescribable love is expressed and the Father’s heart is extended. In a very real way, we become the hands and feet of Jesus.

What is amazing is that most times, the people who offer this love have no idea how important their little expression is. They just were thinking about someone and followed through. It happens in all kinds of ways. Sometimes they’ll have a dream about someone or wake up thinking about them. Sometimes a person’s face will come to mind while they’re driving down the road. Sometimes, a difficult situation will come up in conversation and there is a pressing feeling that a phone call needs to be made.

I am embarrassed to think about how many times I have missed these opportunities. When God prodded me and I excused it and continued on my day. When I have been too consumed with my agenda to stop and represent the Father. Wow! The incredible life transforming moments I have arrogantly walked right by.

But…those days when I have listened – those are days I will never forget. Days when people open their hearts. Days when freedom erupts, as much for me as it does the people I am caring for. Days that I can’t get enough of.

In the past couple of months, I have been loved by God through his people like this over and over. It has been amazing. And I want more of it. Yes, for myself but mostly, I want to offer it. To live a life, completely interruptible by God. Completely available to the movement of his Spirit. I truly can’t imagine a better way of life!

How different could today have been for us with this was our goal when we got up this morning?

More than a phone call?

How many minutes do you spend a day talking, texting or posting on your phone? In our world of social media today, we interact at an amazing rate. We are highly available to each other and seem to keep this unending stream of communication constantly going.

Because of this, we are more in touch with friends from the past. We are more aware of our kids’ movements. We are more aware of the details of each other’s lives. And for all of this, I am grateful!

But it makes me wonder…is it possible to live this way with our God? Is it really possible to live in a constant conversation with him – minute by minute – like we do with our friends on our phones? Is there a way of connecting to him that tethers our hearts to his so deeply that we are never out of touch with him? Can our prayer life with him be more than a phone call? Can we really live in his presence, deeply dependent on him?

The answer to all of this is a resounding, “YES!” And it’s not just available to the “super-religious” – whatever that is. It is what our Father longs to have with us. A transforming intimacy that reaches into every moment of our lives.

A few months ago, we talked about living this kind of life with our God at Journey Christian Community. Click on the link below, take a look and re-imagine what could be!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDixQFiIOUc

Communicating with God

Tech stuff has always been fascinating for me. I enjoy checking out my friends’ new computers, video games and phones. Speaking of phones, I am continually amazed at the seemingly endless production of new apps that keep hitting the market. There is truly one for everything! But for the most part, I have seen all of these advances as luxuries…even clutter.

I enjoy a simple, slow-paced, relational way of life. I would much rather sit down with a friend face to face than to send them an e-mail, Facebook post or text. One of my favorite things in all the world is experiencing what happens when authentic connections are made. Like the relationships that are built when people share their lives over a meal. Acceptance. Friendship. Intimacy. It’s a great way to live!

Question: In a world full of blogs (like this one), tweets, texts, voice mails, news bulletins and on and on…Is it possible to really have deep, uninterrupted connections with people? Are we so socially available through media that we are no longer available personally?

I’ve wrestled with this for quite some time. I have resisted getting a twitter account and have purposefully limited my time on Facebook. I have operated with an engagement philosophy of, “If I am with someone, I am not available to anyone else” – of course with one exception…my wife!

If you are reading this blog, then you have noticed I have recently opened myself up to using these social media tools more actively. But as I do, I am attempting to function out of one driving principle: “Communicate with people, not with media!” People’s hearts are still first. True relationship is still the goal. Authentically loving them is still the key.

As we live in and experience this busy, cluttered world that bombards us with new possibilities every second, we cannot lose sight of God’s heart. That people are his greatest love. As Jesus followers, we must keep this perspective. If we do, every time people communicate with us – whether in person or on-line – they will find themselves encountering the truest heart of all. And through us, they just might find themselves communicating with God!

The Big Catch

Last month my family took a trip to Creede, CO for a relaxing week in one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. It was a terrific week. Lot’s of sleeping in, playing games, long walks and of course…fishing. For me, fishing is much like golf. I am constantly amazed at people who seem to master the sport. At the same time, I constantly try not to get frustrated with my consistent lack of ability. This scenario is only magnified when I am out with my dad. He regularly out performs all other fishermen in our cabin combined. On this trip, I believe the count was something like: Dad: 20 and Landon: 0!

Although he does like to tell his stories of victory, Dad is a good sport about it. He doesn’t rub it in  or make me feel like a bigger loser than I am. However, there are those rare moments that have to be shared. Moments of sheer excitement and joy.

I had the pleasure of experiencing one of those moments with my Dad on my last day of the trip. We had driven out to a remote lake where it was obvious that few fishermen had been lately. We unloaded and I ventured off with my kids to see if I might be able to help the two younger ones actually catch something. As usual, my dad took his time picking out the right lure and watching the lake for signs of life. He picked a spot and moved in.

About 5 minutes later it happened! The usual calm, collected fishermen became extremely animated. He yelled, “Fish on!” At first, I was a little surprised. He is rarely verbal when catching a fish – I’m guessing because he doesn’t want to scare the next one off. But this one was different. This one was special and he didn’t care about the future impact of his excitement. As he landed the fish, he continued yelling, telling us to come take a look.

I hurriedly rushed my kids over to him and saw him holding a 16″ trout. At first glance, it appeared to be a nice fish. Nobody is going to scoff at a 16″ trout but it’s not that uncommon. In fact, about 15 years ago, I saw him catch a rainbow trout that was almost twice this size. But that’s what made this fish so special…it wasn’t a rainbow, it was a brookie!

Brook trout are usually about 7-8 inches long and this one was 16″! Although it’s not going to set any world records, it is truly a special moment for a trout fisherman. And so we celebrated. We oohed and aahed. We took pictures. And all the kids took turns holding the treasure. The big catch!

As I retell this story and consider my dad’s joy, I can’t help but think about my God (click here to be taken to http://www.recklesspursuitbook.com). That he gave us these experiences. These emotions. These gifts.

But there is more here than my gratitude to the Father for these things. There is a glimpse into his heart. A heart that longs for celebration and joy. A heart that will not rest until it is fully experienced.

The drive that the most avid fisherman has to land that big catch is nothing compared to our Father’s pursuit of us. He is constantly chasing us. Watching for signs of life. Luring us with his love. Inviting us to take the bait, to allow ourselves to be caught by him and to be completely transformed. There is truly nothing else that matters to him. Nothing!

We are his prize, his conquest and his joy! We are the love of his life and he can’t get enough. He wants to empty the lake with us. A few great catches are not enough. He wants us all!

For those of us who would join him in this amazing pursuit, a word of warning: he is not after trophies to be displayed. It’s not about showing off or winning some imaginary contest. People are not projects to finish for our God. He simply loves us desperately and he will not rest until he has us. And oh, the party that erupts with every catch!