Baptism. Graduation. And Deep Significance.

bobby posting:

Sometime last year I sat here in my office and did my best to think of an analogy that explained baptism.  I knew that baptism didn’t bring about salvation on it’s own, but I knew it was more than just a little ceremony.  Taido and I wanted to communicate clearly that something significant occurs during that experience.  It’s not that a personal relationship with merman Jesus is found somewhere under the water, but that something more than nothing takes place.  The best we could come up with was graduation.

When a senior walks across that stage and accepts their diploma, they become a graduate.  I know, technically, they’ve graduated long before.  With all the tests turned in, scores calculated, credits counted and GPA maxed out.  But the walking across, cap and gown and all, does something.  Something that holds deep significance.

I used the analogy at the time and felt pretty good about it.  I watched a few students get baptized a few weeks later.  Their hearts full and bursting with pride.  I knew something was taking place right before my eyes.  You couldn’t put a finger on it.  Certainly couldn’t calculate anything about it.  But there it was.  Plain as day for everyone to see.  Significance.

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On Monday night, I got to see that analogy in action.  I watched as several of our students walked across the stage at their own high school graduation.  Some, too cool for school at other times, couldn’t help but smile as they walked across the stage.  They’d already earned their degrees, but now they were able to hold on to them.  With parents and brothers and sisters and friends watching, they moved their feet in one swift direction toward the next phase of their lives.  If you watched their faces, which I did on the big screen, you could see the transformation take place with each step forward.  With nearly every single student.  No one could contain it.  If you could bottle up “graduation” and sell it as a drug, you’d make a lot of people proud and happy.  And you’d let them know what deep significance feels like.

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Baptism and Graduation are both outward expressions of an inward reality.  Something has happened to us or is still taking place within us, and we have to let it out.  For the world to see.  And that sort of expression pulls something out of us that we aren’t quite able to quantify.  Pure, unadulterated joy.  A moment has been marked.  A landmark has been laid down.

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Makes me wonder if there’s anything brewing inside all of us, at all times, that we should get out.  We walk around sometimes like closed containers.  Maybe pry the lid open up a bit.  Share your real heart with the rest of us.  When you don’t hold back, when you let it all go, that bliss is pretty beautiful to witness.

Freedom found in faithful fortitude.

When the world would love to hold you down, when circumstances could pull you down into the depths of apathy, it’s inspiring to see you fight back with bold outward expressions of inward realities.  That is where significance is found.

Deep, long lasting significance.


One Big Question / Seeking God / Jen’s Take

Our friend Jen has jumped in again with yet another great post.  Enjoy her work.  I’m sure it’ll push you to seek God more regularly and earnestly as well.
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jen posting:

Where is your favorite spot,

what is your favorite activity to seek God?

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When I think of this question I automatically think of my mornings with french-pressed coffee, a journal, a Bible, some other book that speaks spiritual wisdom to me, and a sleepy Jen curled up in a chair. Now truth be told, I wish every morning started off this way. Usually, it’s my scrambliness that gets the best of me in the morning, with just enough time to mutter “Good morning, Jesus,” before I realize I’ve overslept. Other preferred spots/activities include going on a walk by myself, especially evening walks when the weather is warm enough for me not to freeze and think bad thoughts about Chicago. Early morning walks are nice too–again with appropriate weather. I’m a sucker, or I should say my soul is a sucker for stillness and quiet. If you play your cards right in the mornings, even in a bustling city like Chicago, you can encounter just the right amount of peace, solace, and hopefully a bit of God.
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The extrovert in me, though, can’t spend all her time in solitude as a means for seeking God. About a month and a half ago, a friend of mine and I attended a Taize service, which is an ecumenical service of simple songs and liturgical prayers. The place was enchanting, yet simple–tall ceilings and stain glassed-windows, pristine, white furniture (if you can call it that–I guess I’m referring to the alter, lectern, etc.), and white candles galore. It was one of those majestic, older churches that makes your voice sound echo-ey. To top it off, the choir situated themselves in the back balcony. So you heard these angelic voices coming from somewhere “up there,” making you feel as though you’ve arrived at the pearly gates. In all seriousness, though, it was a stunning experience for the senses. The smells, the sights, the sounds, and your own participation alongside a group of “strangers” turned sisters and brothers. I cried. God was there.
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On a more intimate-friend level, I love seeking God with dear friends in a home, around a table of delicious food. Cooking together, laughing with one another, sharing the confusing and painful parts of life, then gathering to sing our joys, hurts, and exhaustion to God–if that is not a rich way to seek God, I don’t know what is! God’s love comes in the form of a friend’s cheeky smile, in a simple exchange that makes you feel known, and–a favorite of mine–a bear hug. And it comes in the form of all of us being still and quiet before God that God mysteriously gives us a keen sense that he is among us.
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Oh, and listening to Mumford and Sons is helpful too.

One Big Question / Seeking God / Bobby’s Take

bobby posting:

Adam did a great job getting us started last week with our One Big Question.  Now it’s my turn.  For those of you new to the idea, someone posts a question and it gets answered from the whole lot of us.  We also love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.  So…here’s this week’s question, followed by my response:

Where is your favorite spot,

what is your favorite activity to seek God?

I’m going to shoot it straight with you.  What I’m about to write here is stretching the question a bit.  I’ve turned it from where is my favorite way to seek God into what is my favorite way to be sought by God.  I know.  It’s cheap of me.  But to be honest, out of everything that my relationship with God encompasses, this really is my favorite part about it.  It’s real.  Personal.  And always exciting.

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Friday afternoon, I dropped off my wife for an overnight women’s prayer retreat.  I had the little guy for 24 hours on my own.  My one mission, keep him alive.

Step one:  keep him happy and occupied for an hour before bedtime comes rushing at us with eye-rubs and cranky tears.  We swung by the house, picked up our dog, and headed for the park.  It had been one of those days where we were in and out of the house a million times and kept having to tell Zeke that he couldn’t join us.  We promised him run-around time.  This was that time.  Let Abe go wild.  Release Zeke to go crazy.  I was about to be everyone’s favorite Dad.  Until we got to the park.  The one that I’ve never seen another soul at.  The one that I feel fine letting my dog loose at.  Not this time.  Not with soccer practices gone wild.  Folks everywhere.

With a toddler ready to get his feet on the ground and dog in the back itching for adventure, I needed to come up with somewhere to make this happen.  Fast.  I needed a miracle.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but when you stop and think about it, there’s just about nowhere that will allow you the freedom to just let your dog go and still be a safe environment for your son to run around endlessly.  I was stumped.

So I said a quick prayer.  Pulled up to the stoplight.  Couldn’t decide which blinker to turn on.  And went straight.  Straight into a little stretch of road that led me right to an empty elementary school parking lot and open field.  Paradise for the three of us.  Answered prayer, in the most beautiful way possible.  My God is my God.  He is personal.

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I realize that last story doesn’t do it for a lot of you.  It’s just some simple little circumstance that wasn’t really that big of a deal that somehow turned out all right.  But for me, it’s everything.  I always say love is in the little things and I believe it with all my heart.  Anyone can love big.  That kind of love is vague and intangible.  Incalculable even.  But little-thing-love is toilet-seat-down kind of love.  It’s practical and personal.  It constantly demands your attention and your affection.  It pulls at the best and worst of you.  Love in the little things tests your true character.

Will I empty the dishwasher?  Rub my wife’s feet?  Hold my tongue?

God’s leaving the dishwasher up to me, it seems.  And he’s certainly not passing out foot rubs…yet.  That’s what heaven’s all about.  I think Rob Bell wrote a book about that.  Maybe I’m wrong. But…God still ridiculously loves me in the little things.  And I love having eyes to see it.

I’ve made major decisions in my life:  where to go to college, when to propose, when to marry, where to begin my broadcasting career, whether or not to leave my broadcasting career for full-time ministry, buying a car, buying a house, deciding when to try to have a baby…in all those moments, God was certainly there.  But the God that shows up there, the one that gets the most airtime for just out everyone else, is not the God that leaves me shaking my head in wonder.  The God in the big things gives me the freedom to drive wherever I feel is best.  And I love that about Him.  But the God in the little things sends my car straight at the intersection, right down the road to an empty elementary school parking lot and open field.

That is the same God that leads me to the trash can to find my lost keys, that quietly speaks the name “Abraham” as I see the ultrasound of my boy, that leads me away from the drive-thru at a fried chicken restaurant in Kentucky to go back to the church I just came from and ask the guy named “Josh” I met there to come join us for dinner as well.  That’s the God that I love seeking.

Like Columbus stumbling upon America, I love getting myself in situations where I recklessly veer off from my plan into God’s party.  My waywardness sends me far one way only to be brought back by his constant creativity.  By His desire to woo me.  I must be frustrating for Him on a regular basis, but at least I give Him plenty of space and opportunity to work His magic.

One Big Question: seeking God

Adam posting:

“Then tell me what you love.”

“The absolute simplicity. That’s what I love. When you’re climbing your mind is clear and free from all confusions. You have focus. And suddenly the light becomes sharper, the sounds are richer and you’re filled with the deep, powerful presence of life.”

-Seven Years in Tibet

The big question this week is regarding each person’s favorite spot or favorite activity to seek God. My favorite activity is prayer. My favorite spot is at another person’s side. For me, nothing draws me closer to the presence of God than to pray fervently for a hurting friend.

I love writing. And I feel a deep sense of satisfaction after working with words. But, when I pray I understand the simplicity of our lives. I feel good and evil. I see the battle for a man’s soul taking place, and I am involved in the struggle. And that gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment unlike anything else in the world.

Speak of the Devil

Came across this movie trailer today.  After yesterday’s post, it was too apropos to pass up.  I love a great documentary.  Thinking I won’t miss this one.

Three Things

bobby posting:

Three Things

1 / We’re getting ONE BIG QUESTION going again this week.  Had planned on starting it again today.  But One Big News story just hit.  That leads me to this…

2 / I went to bed early last night.  My wife was having a few of her girl friends over and I didn’t want to intrude, so I went to the back bedroom, read a little and fell asleep to the sound of rain outside my window.  It was sweet and relaxing and provided some much needed rest.  When I woke up this morning, I realized the world had changed overnight.  Something significant happened.  What was significant to me, though, was how I found out.

We’ve been getting the newspaper at the house the past few days because of some promotional offer the Arkansas Democrate Gazette is rolling out.  They tried it once before on us, but we didn’t bite.  I have to admit, though, it’s nice to eat my bowl of cereal with the paper in front of me.  The computer’s just never felt the same.  But we’re certainly not forking over big cash for that little joy.

As I grabbed the paper, I reached immediately for the sports section.  What I found facing me on the front page of the news section, though, was too big to miss.  A giant headline I’ll probably never forget sat staring right at me:

“U.S. kills bin Laden”

I can’t remember the last time I got the news, especially any sort of incredibly newsworthy news, from print media.  While working through journalism school in college, I was face to face, over and over, with the fear that print was dead.  We were presented with “new media”.  Educated in web content and prepared for social networking.  Print was already seen as a thing of the past.  Slowly crawling towards it’s inevitable fate.  One sad dinosaur.  Yet it was print that brought me the news of the day, today.

I remember watching the news when September 11th happened.  I remember watching the news when Barack Obama won the presidency.  I remember watching the news when Sadaam Hussein was found.

In the future I’ll remember heading over to for the major events of the day.  But for now, I’ll remember picking up the paper when I learned bin Laden was killed.  Maybe it was just coincidence.  But picking up the paper, reading that enormous and straightforward headline, seemed to be the most appropriate and sober way to receive this grave news.  And this news has certainly been filled with gravity, whether you’re feeling it or not.  Which gets us to number three…

3 / I read page one of the paper with a strange solemnity.  I felt no deep excitement.  Certainly no joy.  Just a sorrow that I couldn’t quite place.  Perhaps it led me to think about all the pain this man had caused.  I’m still not quite sure.  But then I turned over the paper to page two.  A picture of Americans celebrating bin Laden’s death met me.  Whatever I’d felt stirring before became magnified immediately.  This did not feel like a reason to celebrate.  This didn’t seem to be a time to dance in the streets.  This was certainly not a time for other countries to look at us with smiles on our faces as a man was killed.  Even a man as filled with hate and evil as this man.

All day long, I realized I was not alone in my opinion.  One of the beauties of our country is that we get a chance to say what we want, however we want to say it.  I’m thankful for several different voices today that said something different.  That rose up in a way I couldn’t have expected.  If you’re interested in hearing a few of those, I’ve linked to them below.  Peace.

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From the newsier side of things:

The Huffington Post / “Celebrating a Death” 

From the spiritual side of things:

Shaun Groves / “What is this faith?” 

From the sports side of things:

Jeff MacGregor / “Endgame:  The Arithmetic of Payback”

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And we’ll see you next time with the answer to this ONE BIG QUESTION:

Where is your favorite spot,

what is your favorite activity to seek God?

Acedia. Me. And You. Part Two

bobby posting:

While jogging a few weeks ago, I took a turn down a street I normally pass by.  This is nothing new for me.  I like to try and get a little lost while running.  It keeps the exercise fresh.  Kinda like role playing.  I’m kidding.  Maybe.

I also like to look at houses while I’m out there.  Jogging.  I’m perpetually on the search for our dream house.  You know…

– flat driveway for Father of the Bride late night basketball games

– large backyard for soccer, football, wiffle ball…and for our dog to run around plenty.

– somewhere outside, front or back, that looks like a great sweet-tea sipping spot

– enough room for a family of 5-6 folks and students that come over in troves at all hours of the day.

And that’s about it.  Nothing huge.  Nothing fancy.  Just about right.

Well, on this day, on this route, I found it.  I jogged right by our dream house.  And I fell for it.  Hard.  So much so that I spent the rest of the run figuring out how in the world my family could be in that house one day.  And that led me away from ministry.  Quickly.  For two reasons:

1 / The money I make on a full-time youth ministry salary would never be enough to get me in that house.

2 / The imagination I have for God to bless and provide and wow and take care of us beyond our wildest dreams would never be enough to get me in that house.

So I thought of all the other things I’m gifted and talented in.  Professions that pay well.  Really well.  And I found my mind drifting.  I found myself wandering.  I was looking to find myself at a new desk somewhere.  Picking up a sweet paycheck.  Saving up for a down payment on a house.  I was searching in my mind for all these things…

Instead, I found something else.

Acedia.  And I was face to face with the little monster.

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So here I am.  A few weeks later.  Still sitting at my old desk.  Wondering about wandering.  And marinating in this question:  am I person number one or person number two?  Do I have no regrets or do I wish I could change things? Am I content with the way my life has played out or am I yearning for a do-over?  Do I want to keep moving forward or push to fall backward?

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes in the Stability book I mentioned yesterday something incredibly profound and powerful.  Especially if it’s true.

Maybe the single most important thing we can do if we want to grow spiritually is to stay in the place where we are.

Man, that sentence nailed me.  Instead of letting my mind run while I’m running, I’m going to really give that last sentence a try.  Let it soak into my life.  Dig roots filled with stability.  Fight off acedia.  Pro-actively.  Even when it’s just a little seed.  Especially when it’s just a little seed.

And who knows, maybe years from now, I’ll be writing to you from this same old desk.  But in a brand new house.  Exhausted from a long night of driveway basketball with my kids.  Sipping on sweet tea.  Filled with gratitude.  Maybe as much as I have right now.

Because even now, especially now, I’m incredibly grateful for this desk.  For my house.  For my son.  For even just teaching him the word “ball”…much less playing ball yet.  And most of all, for my wife’s sweet tea.