Thursday, January 31, 2013


I don't ever want to grow up.

When I say that - and I do a lot - I'm not saying that I relish childish immature attitudes or that I want to avoid having adult responsibilities.

But still...I don't want to grow up. Meaning that I don't ever want to stop looking at life like I did when I was a child. Life is an adventure, and it's fun. I want to relish that. I also want to always be growing, always learning new things, always in touch with the best of God's creation. More than anything else, I don't ever want to hesitate to do something big because I'm too old and set in my ways.

But this post isn't about doing anything big. It's about keeping that childlike playfulness, that attitude that keeps you energetic to try big things. And how, well, jealous I was of this group of friends.

My friend Caroline tweeted a link to this article that talked about some friends in their 40s who are still playing a game of Tag after 23 years. The same game. Rather than me trying to describe it, here's the article:

It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being "It"

What fun! While I have no idea whether these guys get it when it comes to life in general, I can say they get it in one respect: Putting a little fun in your life and finding a way to stay in touch with old friends is a good thing.

Very few of us can jut around the country playing Tag with our college buddies. But I dare say we can all find ways to value relationships and put some adventure in our lives. Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We Are Both

If you watch the show Once Upon A Time, you probably recognize the title of this blog post. And you're probably thinking - well, that's old!

You would be right. The phrase is from a ket scene in the October 7 episode. Through the magic of DVR, some friends and I just watched it for the first time a few days ago. And in it - in this scene - WE saw glimpses of the Creator's imprint on our lives.

Setting it up, the people of Storybrook, Maine are actually fairy tale characters who have been exiled to the real world through a curse. They have not been able to be everything they were intended to be because of the curse, but they have recently been liberated. Now they know who they are - but they are in danger of losing it if they cross a line. Enter Price Charming:

In this powerful scene, Charming helps the people see that they are the sum product of all their experiences, good and bad. To be everything they were meant to be, they had to be liberated from their blindness. But now that they have been, they don't need to forget their shackles. It's those shackles that taught them many lessons and helped them see themselves as they really were. To cross the line was to go back to to slavery...and to lose part of themselves.

Paul talks about our internal struggle in Romans 7. We have been set free through Jesus to live life as God intended. But indeed, we are both. We are the free citizens of God's kingdom that we were intended to be. But, in this life, we never completely lose the shadow of the weak, selfish people that needed to be rescued. It is through the struggle that God shapes us into the people we were created to be. Like Charming, Paul is exhorting us: Don't cross the line. Don't go back. Don't return to slavery. Embrace the new life of the kingdom even though there will be struggles.

People created to live in fellowship with our Creator; people who rebel against that and do things our own way. We are both.  Our friends are both. This world is both.

But it won't always be. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus the Messiah!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Wax on, wax off"

Pain. Discouragement. Grief. Failure. Numbness.


We all face it, in one form or another. For some, it seems to be their entire life. For others, it hits them occasionally. For all of us, there are probably extended periods when we stare into the face of death, disease, losing a job, bankruptcy, or divorce.

Why isn't life easy? Why do we have to go through pain?

The more I think and read about this question (including study of the Scriptures), the more I believe that "why?" is the wrong question. The better question is, "How will God use it to shape us into what we were meant to be?"

There are lots of Bible passages where we see this. We see that Job, possibly the most afflicted man in history, never learns why; but, he does come through it with a better understanding of God's character. We see in Hebrews and James that adversity is used to shape us and produce godly character. We see in Romans that everything - everything - is designed to conform us into the image of Jesus.

And years ago I saw a great example in a classic movie: The Karate Kid (1984).

In this movie (the original, not the 2010 retelling), young Daniel is being picked on at his high school by some bullies. To defend himself, he begins to learn from an elderly man who knows the martial arts. He asks for lessons but gets something much different from Mr. Miyagi: task after task that makes him feel like he's being used as a personal handyman. Sand the floor. Wax the car. Paint the walls. The frustration builds until...

So, he learns that it all did have a point. As he went through hours and hours of manual labor - seemingly pointless except as a way for Miyagi to get his chores done - he was learning. His body was developing muscle memory that would help him defend himself.

Whatever we are going through this very day, whatever struggles we have, may seem incredibly pointless. Why is work so hard? What doesn't she love me anymore? Why did she have to die? Why did I have to get sick? Why am I going through this?

I don't know why. I suspect I never will in this life, and neither will you. But I do know that God can use it to strengthen me, to build character, and to conform me to what he wants me to be. And if I let him, he will.

When pain comes next, I pray that I will have the strength to trust him and let it happen.

(For more on this topic, I recommend Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges.)

Monday, January 21, 2013

A lot of people

Ok, in the category of "duh"...there are A LOT of people in the world.

Yeah, sometimes things you "know" just kind of hit you out of the blue. That happened to me as I was descending toward a landing in NYC Friday. I looked down at the rows and rows and rows and rows of house and thought, "Wow, that's a ton of people!"

Then of course, when I found myself walking down the streets of Manhattan it was even more obvious. You could fill stadiums just with the folks in the general vicinity of Times Square on a Saturday night.

It hit me one more time as I was sitting in a theatre seat waiting for a show. I thought about the fact that the show is performed 7-8 times per week and the place is packed every night. And this happens at dozens of theatre venues all over town. And in London. And in touring shows all over the world.

Yes, there are alot of people on this planet...

And God loves every one of them. He has a plan for our universe crafted from his infinite wisdom with perfect love, and executed by his unlimited power. When I think of how is able to work his purpose for each person in the world, considering all the permutations of how my actions affect you, and your actions affect him, and his actions affect her...and on and on...the mathematician in me blows a fuse. And yet that is exactly what he is able to do. In perfect wisdom with perfect love for

No wonder Paul wrote:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33, NIV)
Beyond tracing out indeed! Especially when you see how many people there are.

Wow...just wow.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fringe: Finishing the story

Once again it's time. Time for one of my favorite television shows to finish its run. This time it's Fringe, and I'm going to miss it.

To me, the best shows, the best movies, the best books are those that tell an epic story. Movies that come to mind are mostly those told over multiple releases, and often are based on a book series. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. For television, LOST is the one that sets the standard for me, but there have been many others.

Fringe is one of the all-time greats. It is unique in that it such a wonderful show with magnificent actors but it never gained a large audience. I personally believe it may become this generation's Star Trek - a show that was canceled after one season but became a cult classic and the inspiration for a series of movies. Through digital media, many will discover this gem after the curtain has fallen.

This show was smart, thought-provoking, centered on extremely interesting characters, and even funny. The acting was amazing and the characters compelling. On the surface, it appeared to be about science fiction, but it was really about this collection of people who became a family. It was a story about choices, and how all our choices are important and affect people in ways we can't even start to understand.

Forgiveness. Love. Family. Choices. Fate. Free will. Redemption. Faith.  If these interest you, Fringe is your story.

So I'll gather with family and friends to see the end tomorrow night. I'm expecting a powerful conclusion. I love a great story.

And what a story it was.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Whatcha doing this summer?

No, it's not too early to think about summer - especially once football season ends. To do really cool stuff, sometimes you have to plan ahead. Travel. Time off work. Seeing friends and family. Yep, we may be in the cold of winter, but summer isn't too far away.

Three years ago, my niece Brooke challenged me to do something different. Instead of just going to the beach, or going on a cool vacation, she wanted me to take her to Africa. Not for a safari, but to visit children who were in desperate need of someone to love them.

My life has never been the same. I found a community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that I couldn't get out of my head...or heart.

Last summer, I led a small team back there - here are some highlights:

So what are you doing this summer? If you have a week, pray about joining us on a Visiting Orphans team as we return to share the love of Christ with these amazing children and their families. Registrations have really picked up in the last week, but there are still several spots.

Here is the page with more info about the trip and how to register:

Manis team, Ethiopia, June/July 2013

I can't wait to go back...hope you'll be with me!

Friday, January 11, 2013

One of a kind...Ted Cheek

The year was 1986. I was so excited when I found out that my uncle wanted to take me on a trip. A trip to a place I'd never been before. Hello, New York City!

Just Uncle Ted and me, exploring the Big Apple. The Empire State Building. Rockefeller Plaza. The Statue of Liberty. But most of all, Broadway. That was the summer I fell in love with the the Great White Way, and in particular the best theatre anywhere in the United States.

Our first priority was Ted's favorite, Big River. I was spellbound. Then we saw a revival of Sweet Charity, which I wanted to see because I had been involved in a production of it at Lee High School. Finally, I went to see Cats; Uncle Ted had no interest in that so I went alone. Three shows, great food, and the lights of Broadway. I've been hooked ever since.

After an amazing life, Uncle Ted went to his eternal reward Tuesday. He will be missed by so many people. He was a man with an amazing heart for everyone - his family, his friends, and anyone else who needed his help. You could see the love and compassion of Jesus in the way he loved and cared. He always took care of my mother (his sister) in ways that I could see, and I am sure in ways that I will never know. He was the president of a business that they owned together (along with their other brothers) and his leadership was legendary. Their business gave me my first job as a teenager, where over the course of six years I learned my work ethic. Whether through his business, his church, or time with his family, his life touched so many people.

My roles in my own family fall into three categories: son, brother, and uncle. While I did not get to observe much about his life as a son, I watched and watched and watched him be a brother to my mom. And I experienced firsthand his love as an uncle. I sit here tonight and say with all the conviction I can muster: I am better at all of these because of how it was modeled for me by Uncle Ted.

I am going to miss my uncle so much. Tomorrow we will say goodbye and celebrate his life here on earth. It will extremely difficult.

And one week from tomorrow, I will be on a plane to New York for a couple of days. I will see a couple of shows, eat some great food, and marvel at the world Uncle Ted introduced me to almost 30 years ago. While my trip was planned weeks ago, I don't think this is a coincidence. I get to celebrate this great man by revisiting the place where we had such a great time. He will be in my heart with every step.

Thank you, Uncle Ted. I miss you.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What a resume....a rant

Did you see it? If you are a college football fan, you know that the Louisville Cardinals destroyed the mighty Florida Gators in last night's Sugar Bowl. The score was 33-23, but it was far worse than that. Louisville jumped out to a huge 21-3 lead and were never seriously threatened.

It was perhaps the biggest upset in BCS Bowl history. How could this happen?

Well, forgive me while I get something off my chest. It's a pet peeve about the way NCAA basketball tournament teams are selected. It will, no doubt, come into play in 2014 when the football playoffs start. And this game was a perfect example of why it's garbage.

When it comes time for the basketball selection committee to do its work, we are inundated with resume comparisons. This team's resume is better than that team's. How many non-conference teams did you play in the RPI Top 20? Top 50? Top 100? How many of those did you win? We see side-by-sides; we see blind side-by-sides (Team A vs. Team B). Over and over. And the results often do not pass the eye test.

So...this Florida team. They beat USCe (South Carolina). They beat LSU. They beat Texas A&M. They beat Florida State. Their only loss was to Georgia. By resume, they would be a clear choice to be a Top 4 team and qualify for the playoff. (Many thought their resume was enough that they should have been in the Top 2.) But they never - ever - looked the part. There always seemed to be something missing. They never passed the "eye test". And finally it showed. It showed with an embarrassing performance.

Now think about this: how does one go about finding a job? You create a good resume and send out alot of them, right? Good resumes are important; they get you in the door. A good resume gets you on the short list so that you get an interview. But there's always an interview. No employer in his right mind would hire you strictly based on a sheet of paper!

So what makes us think selecting the most deserving teams to play for a championship is any different? Selecting teams based on resume and resume only is equivalent to picking a resume out of a stack and hiring somebody without ever talking to them! Ridiculous. You have to meet them, talk to them, and get a feel for whether they are the right person for the job. Nobody hires from resumes alone.

So you've got to watch teams play. Observe matchups. Evaluate talent, cohesiveness, and discipline. The resume narrows it down to maybe 10 or 15. But the eye has to pick the four. It only makes sense.

Otherwise, you'll get a team like Florida playing for the championship. Ughhhh.

There, I'm done. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.