Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What are you holding on to?

If you know me very well, you might know that I don't necessarily think about the future too much. I'm kinda a "here-and-now" kind of guy. I compartmentalize and the smallest compartment I have is "thinking-about-the-future." I view it as a positive attribute, but it could also be looked at as negative. This is different than a lack of vision. I steer clear of anything my family might be hurt by, I'm not an idiot when it comes to finances, etc., etc., it's just when I have something this week, I don't think about what is happening the week after. As Jesus said, "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

In my view it really simplifies things.

This past week I have started to stress about the sale of our house, something I don't usually do. Thoughts of urgency run through my head when I think about us leaving in a little more than 100 days. A small little knot tightens up in my stomach and I begin to think of solutions. When I begin to think of solutions I completely cut God out of the equation. I take something that requires God and attempt to use my pea-sized brain to solve it. Among other things, it is impossible.

So I'm sitting in a meeting with my principal and another teacher about social studies curriculum for next year and the topic comes up about who is going to replace me and when the search can start. I quickly said, well I will resign as soon as my house sells. Instantly I began thinking - why? Why wait until then? Am I not going to go in June? Why have you not resigned? God gave me a message: "What are you holding on to? Resign today." Here I am stressing about the future when God is asking me to focus on ways I can believe in Him today.

Doesn't thinking in the now simplify things?

So, I'm resigning, today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Servant's Heart

Sometimes I wake up in the morning thinking people owe me something.

Paul tells the Thessalonians that "with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition." The "strong opposition" that he faced was being roughed up a bit and thrown in jail in Philippi. He then goes on to mention that his motives were pure and he wasn't trying to trick anyone, but he doesn't really care what they think of him. Verse 6 says: "We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else." He cared little about their gratitude or praise. He believed he was entrusted to spread the Gospel and man's approval or gratitude was none of his concern. His attitude comes off as somewhat flippant, unless you think about "why" he did what he did. Why he was spreading the Gospel in Thessalonica. Why?: because his desire to please God far outweighed his desire for the approval of man. He deeply desired to demonstrate his own love for Jesus by telling people about Him. If you gave him praise or blame, it made no difference.

I catch myself wanting the gratitude of others. My students at school, they need to know what I have done for them, that I'm doing them a favor, or I'm cutting them a break. Serenity, did you notice that I cleaned the entire kitchen and picked up the house? My desire is to gain some sort of approval by the gratitude of men (and women).

If my desire is to serve people so that I can then gain some sort of gratitude in return, I will be wasting my time. As Oswald Chambers writes: "If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and broken-hearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love to God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men."

When I am searching for gratitude in my servant-hood - there is not a more empty feeling, because many times, it just won't come. We will look for our identity, our reflection in other men, and we won't find it, or at least we won't find what we want to see. However, when I have Christ and his love for me as the reason for my service there is no greater joy, and that is when we begin to reflect Christ. Service is not toil and labor; it is freedom, and joy. I can honestly say that I have had more fun under the Burnside Bridge than just about anywhere else in Portland, and the entire time, in "service" to those who owe me nothing.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I won't miss teaching. The bureaucracy, the in-services, the literacy trainings - won't miss them. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of good days teaching, and most of the time I don't mind getting out of bed and going to work. For the first time in 7 years I shared my testimony to each of my classes - I mean no holds barred testimony. I shared the gospel and told a bunch of public high school kids what God has done in my life, how he has helped me recover from alcohol and drug abuse, from sexual sin, and from other areas I have struggled in and given me a new heart. How I still struggle to be who He has called me to, but one thing I know for sure is that He loves me and that is who I am, the son of the supreme Abba, my Father. I have had a lot of conversations with students since September, and not one phone call from a parent. I connected with one of my student's parents at a parent-teacher conference in October and they are now dear friends and prayer warriors for us.

It's kinda funny, this year, I feel that I have finally been obedient to God when he has asked me to step out in faith and share with students. His Spirit has been with me at school convicting me and shaping me to be a better representation of Christ to the people I'm around. This is my last year, and I finally feel like I am doing what He has asked me to - I feel like I'm figuring it out, and now I'm leaving. Isn't that how God works, using the time in one place to shape you for the next.

One thing I will miss however is coaching. I have been the head wrestling coach for 5 years at Woodburn High School. When I took the program over in 2003 we had a total of 17 kids in the entire program. We hadn't had a state placer since 1999, and we were last in the Pac9 conference. It has been tough, but we have gotten better. In 2003 we placed 2, with one making the state finals and losing a close match 4-3. In 5 years I have had 10 placers, and placed as high as 12th in the state. We have gradually improved in our league, going from last, to this year placing 5th. We were one match away from winning the Mid Willamette League dual meet title. We went 15-4 in dual meets this season, the best WHS has done since 1990. We finished this season with 42 kids on the team. Not bad in 5 years.

I have realized though that it will never end. The program could improve to the point where we are winning state titles and I would never be satisfied. I would always want to win another, back-to-back, three in a row, and on and on. He has reminded me what is important. Even though I am able to speak into the lives of these young men, He has something else for me, the season is changing, and I am accepting that. The Holy Spirit has also worked in another way - reminding me that God is in control. Win or lose, God is in control, and I am not defined by being a winner or a loser, I am defined by being the son of the supreme Abba Father.

I will miss it. Wrestling is one of the most rewarding sports to coach. You can tell an athlete to do something standing 5 feet away from him, he does it, and all the sudden his opponent is on his back and the match is over. Instant gratification. To tell you the truth, I will miss the early mornings, the 7am weigh-ins. I'm pretty sure my wrestlers won't miss the Bulldog drills, or the 4-lines, but I will. I know it is a cliche, but is literally true in wrestling: the blood, sweat and tears will be missed too. We should be on the East Coast next February and I have already told Tim that we will need to stop in and see the Georgia state wrestling tournament.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Health and Wealth

I'm realizing that one of the quotes that has impacted me the most from Shane Claiborne's book Irresistible Revolution, was one of his chapter titles: When Comfort Becomes Uncomfortable. When you read the statistics from "Miniature Earth," or hear the stories from local doctors working in Niger, when you see with your own eyes the material poverty on the streets of America, and then compare that to the excessive consumption you live in, the excessive comfort you possess: comfort becomes uncomfortable.

Is this the life God has called His children too? The life of Joel Osteen? I agree with Mr. Osteen in one area: God wants good things for us. But treating God like a genie in a bottle who is going to answer your prayers and give you material wealth is faulty and misleading theology. True, God has blessed many of His children with material wealth. The apostle Paul writes that he has learned to be content with much and with little, so you can make the assumption that Paul, at some point in his Christian walk, lived in abundance. He blessed King David with material wealth, eventually Job is given "twice as much as he had before," and the list of God's blessings and abundance goes on and on. Wealth is not wrong. God did not condemn the rich young ruler because of his wealth, he condemned him because his wealth had become his god. And, as I mentioned, God wants good things for us, maybe even riches. But we live in a country that is so caught up in wealth and possessions, buying and consuming, that our perspective is skewed. We are constantly barraged with material comfort and consumerism that developing a healthy and Godly perspective on wealth is nearly impossible. Then we have the health and wealth theology that comes along and gives an over-consumptive society an excuse to continue to ignore the death, poverty and injustice throughout the world.

Many of you know that I teach high school social studies. One of the topics that I teach each year to my history classes is imperialism in Africa in the late 19th century. One of the justifications of imperialism (the domination of a weaker nation either politically, socially, militarily or economically) was social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was the belief that Europeans had a duty before God to "civilize" the people of foreign lands by teaching them new and “better” ways, and without this "help," the inferiority of that people group would ensure it's demise and eventual extinction. More importantly it gave developed nations the justification to continue the political, social and economic injustice.

If I could make the connection, I believe the health and wealth theology does something very similar: It allows Americans to believe that those struggling in the vicious cycle of poverty are somehow bringing it on themselves (much like Job’s friends thought about Job); while the prosperous in the United States today are somehow favored by God – and have nice shiny smiles to show for it!

This is flat out unbiblical.

This past weekend I finally listened to the lyrics of a song I had rocked out to in college, and the words fit right with my thoughts today. The song is titled “Health and Wealth” and is by the O.C. Supertones (yes I was a Ska fan – and still am!).

by the O.C. Supertones

Poor men bound in persecution,
God's their portion everyday.
But we don't know anybody
who lives that way.
There the church grows stronger,
under politics and chains and whips.
They can't explain how they
slipped right through their grip.
in the politics of Mao Tse-Tung.
I think they got it right,
so maybe we got it wrong.

Health and wealth, we help ourselves,
and let them play the hand
that they've been dealt.
Health and wealth, indulge ourselves,
a big fat belly underneath our belts.
Health and wealth, we help ourselves,
and let them play the hand
that they've been dealt.
We'll never understand
the Christ they've felt,
if we keep on chasing
health and wealth.

Here we sit so comfy, rich.
use, me and you, the USA...
so far away from C-h-i-n-a.
We think they need freedom.
We're the ones in prison.
We don't have the time
to change the world.
It doesn't take long to figure out,
where all our money goes.
We're the poorest billionaires
Jesus knows.

And we ask God to refine us,
and pray that we would be freed,
from all our comfortable gods,
our straining and striving and
chasing the wind.