Scary Love

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My hobby and entertainment outlet of choice is the Dallas Cowboys. I know, that in itself is pretty polarizing but they’re my team and it’s the one addiction I will allow myself. On my days off, I’ll research their stats, read up on their opponents and do my best to project their future.

Last night, before the Cowboys visited the Bears – and utterly fell apart – I received a series of texts from one of my friends. Although he lives in Waco, Texas (and attends Journey), he for some reason feels an unnatural allegiance to his “home team” the Chicago Bears. He and I spent the next half hour sparing back and forth, explaining why “my” team was better and would ultimately come out on top. It was a lot of fun!

However, even as I made my case, I wasn’t convinced. I knew my arguments were hollow and I doubted that the joy of victory would be ours. The final outcome of the game, a 45-28 embarrassment, was all too predictable.

In response to yet another crippling defeat, I posted on Facebook my thoughts about why this keeps happening to the Cowboys. I explained some X’s & O’s and then made the case that the problem is deeper than any one player or even a ridiculously bad defense. The problem is deeper than that and can be summed up in one word…

INFLUENCE.

It’s the single most important word in football and is, I believe, in the top 5 most important words in life. Influence. Consider for a moment the power behind this word. This is the force that guides you, shapes your thoughts and your character. It impacts everything in our lives. Our relationships. Our professions. Our self-esteem. Our faith. What we invite to influence us directly determines who we will be, what we will do and how we will impact the world around us.

The problem with the Cowboys is a problem of poor influence. Poor influence in the draft room, possibly (although probably getting better – consider the last couple of drafts, emphasizing the offensive line – but I digress). Poor influence on the management of critical game situations…absolutely! I am convinced that if this one piece of influence was changed for the Cowboys, it would impact their win column by 3 to 4 wins a year!

In considering this, I can’t help but think about how this plays out in my life. I both celebrate and struggle with influence – especially as a dad. I realize the power I have to shape and mold my kids because of the influence I have over them and I don’t want to sleep walk through it. I want to use it intentionally and proactively. I know who I want my kids to become and I want to do everything I can to direct that. Sometimes I do a great job, sometimes I feel like I’m sleepwalking but I realize I am influencing regardless. And mostly, I am grateful for that.

The struggle comes not because of what my influence means but because of what it doesn’t mean. Think about it…with all that influence can do there is one thing it can never and will never do.

CONTROL.

I influence my kids every day but I will never be able to control them. I can not “make” them “do” anything. I can guide. Teach. Direct. Shape. Mentor. Challenge. Correct. Discipline. And on and on. But I will never be able to control them nor anyone in my sphere of influence.

And this is both freeing and troubling at the same time. It allows me to be critically important but ultimately puts the responsibility fully on their choice. As I consider the depth of such a dynamic, I am highly aware that this where our God chose to live with us.

That’s scary love!

Reckless Pursuit: Part 1 – How It Could Have Been

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Reckless Pursuit: God’s Story of Relentless Love is in its final stages of production and will be made available early this Fall. As we move toward announcing its arrival, I will be posting regular teasers straight from the content of the book. Today’s snapshot look at Reckless Pursuit comes from Part 1: How It Could Have Been.

                The phone rang. Without hesitation, I ran to pick it up, hoping I was quick enough to keep it from waking our baby boy. “Hello,” I answered in a hushed tone. On the other end was a voice I recognized. It was a mom of one of the girls in our ministry and there was a noticeable sense of desperation in her voice.

                  “Landon! I’m sorry to be calling you so late but I need your help. It’s Candice…she’s really struggling and I don’t know what to do. I hate to ask this but can you come over and talk with her right now?”

                  I glanced at Kristen and she gave me that understanding look. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the clock; it was a quarter past ten. I turned back to the phone, told the mom I’d be right there and hung up.

                  In the five minutes it took me to get to their house, my mind went a thousand different directions. The past year or so was a tremendously difficult time for our community. Our town had been hit over and over by teenage suicide and I had watched our people move from shock to despair to anger and finally to a strange and uncomfortable apathy. I came back to focus on Candice and the questions kept flying. “What could be going on with her? Why didn’t I ask more questions? Does it have anything to do with the suicides? Is she struggling herself or is she hurting for someone else? Will I have a clue what to do?” And again, “Why didn’t I ask more questions?” I found myself in the all too familiar place of the unknown and the out of control. In response, I did the only thing I knew to do…I prayed.

                  When I arrived at the house, Candice’s mom met me on the sidewalk, thanked me for coming and began to fill me in on the situation. “Landon, I just don’t know what to do. Nothing I say seems to matter. I can’t get through to her.”

                  “What’s the problem?” I replied. “What is she struggling with so much?”

                  As she was forming the answer, I could see tears begin to surface in her eyes. “Candice doesn’t know if she believes there is a God!”

Does this sound familiar? Is this how life is supposed to be? Does faith have to be so hard? Do our experiences have to be defined in struggle? Keep checking back for more from Reckless Pursuit.

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