Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Buried Treasure

Recently, Amy and I began redecorating our 9-year old's bedroom with an Atlanta Braves theme. We've got the bedspread, pennants, autographed photos, and various other Braves items...which reminded me yesterday that I had some old Braves stuff...somewhere. But, where?

I vaguely remembered putting some items in some boxes and large bins several years ago...maybe even before Amy and I were married. I thought perhaps they might be with my old baseball cards in the basement (or at least that was where I would begin the search).

I removed a bunch of "junk" (mostly golf stuff) in order to get to the bin. I took the lid off the first container, and found two boxes sealed shut with packing tape. In black permanent marker, I had written "sports memorabilia," and attached a note reminding myself which direction to keep the box upright.

My heart raced, and I felt like a little kid again as I opened the lid. On the bottom of the box, in one corner, I discovered an old hinged box which contained several of my most valuable baseball cards - Carlton Fisk rookie card, Ken Griffey Jr. rookies, pre-steriod rookies for Roger Clemens and an autographed Mark McGwire rookie card; Wade Boggs rookie cards, Carl Yastrzemski rookie, and a Magic Johnson 1980 card; Autographed items from Nolan Ryan, Dale Murphy, Phil Neikro, Frank Thomas, Don Mattingly, Larry Munson...and Tiger Woods!

I also found some autographed pictures of some politicians and entertainers I had gotten years ago, but had not thought about in almost a decade!

Funny thing is I just went down in the basement to find one Braves autographed baseball, and I re-discovered a treasure chest full of incredible sports memorabilia I had long forgotten! And, not only did I find that Braves baseball, I found sone authentic 1991, 1992, and 1995 Atlanta Braves World Series pennants!

I still have another box to open. If memory serves, I'll find a Pete Rose autograph, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, and a host of other valuables I haven't given a thought to in a long while. I can't wait to see what I'll find (again)!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crowd, or Committed?

Jesus always drew a crowd. Throughout scripture we see example after example of people clamoring to be near him when he spoke, when he healed, and even when he was arrested and ultimately crucified. He was (and is) an attractive and compelling figure. He was (and is) also arguably the most controversial figure in history. And, without question, the most unconventional leader the world has ever known.

But, during his first stint on earth, Jesus wasn’t about a crowd. Sure, he was concerned about numbers. After all, he was concerned with reaching each and every person with love and truth. But, he never compromised his message or his actions to appease anyone. He never stopped short of delivering – with conviction – the words his Father laid on his heart to share with people.

When I read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, where Jesus laid out what his followers should look like, or about Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life in John 6, I am awestruck. He isn’t telling people what they want to hear. He’s telling them what they need to hear. And, each time he did that, the crowd thinned. In fact, after Jesus told the masses of people who were identified as his disciples that they should “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” they freaked out – then abandoned ship.

They said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus admonished them, and reassured them that his words were “spirit and life.” But, scripture says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

You know what it’s really saying? It’s saying they were dead weight.

Whenever the gauntlet is thrown down, few are left standing. The crowd vanishes, and the committed remain.

It’s that way in any organization, business, or church today. When the bar is raised, you find out who the players are, and who the pretenders are.

As believers in and followers of Christ, we have two challenges. First, we cannot allow the allure of popularity dilute our message and derail our convictions. We cannot compromise our integrity for the sake of being accepted. Very tough to do, I know. But, when your convictions match your words and actions, you’ll have the right people standing alongside you – albeit fewer of them.

Second, we have to make a decision. If we are not in position of leadership (if we’re an employee, volunteer, attendee, intern, etc.) there will be times when we are tempted to walk away from something because the ante has been raised. The stakes become higher, and the challenge has been issued – and our “fight or flight” response mechanism kicks in. The natural tendency is to jump ship. But, when you have conviction, you will possess the ability to stay the course, despite the steeper climb ahead of you.

None of us like to be “called out.” When we’re being lazy, we hate being challenged to work harder. When we’re not giving, the last thing we want to hear is a sermon on investing in God’s Kingdom. When we’re unfaithful to friends and family, we run from God (and church) because we don’t want to deal with the pain we’ve caused to ourselves and others. When we’re living selfishly, we don’t want to be reminded that Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God and love others.

Instead, we cower in fear, we gravitate towards the mainstream, and live lukewarm lives without passion and conviction.

So, my challenge to you is this: the next time you are tempted to flee, stay. Here’s my phrase of the day: “Don’t be a leaver; be a cleaver!” Cleaving simply means to cling tightly to or adhere to something or someone. Instead of abandoning ship, hold tightly to God and have confidence that He will honor your commitment to Him!