I'm not a sports fan

I’m not a huge sports fan, so when I go watch one of the kids’ teams play, I spend much of the time watching the spectators – the moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. There are no casual bystanders. No, they’re active observers. Focused entirely on the game. It’s not enough to scream at the top of their lungs and to clap and whistle. Oh, no. They sit on the edges of their seats, or jump up, and when the soccer ball approaches their child, the parent kicks. Hard. Falling out of the chair. When a tackle is imminent, the parents twist and contort to help keep their child out of reach. Watching them, you can see how badly they want to help. To see them succeed. To be the best and the fastest and the smartest.

I think our Heavenly Father does the same thing. God isn’t sitting up on His throne, quietly, calmly watching. No, He’s on the edge of His seat, jumping to His feet, eager and excited and encouraging. He wants us to do well so badly He can’t hold still. When we need to jump, He jumps. When we need to duck, He ducks. And when it’s apparent that we’re out of our league, that our opponents are stronger and faster and more skilled – then He does for us what we can’t do for our kids. He comes off the bench and rises up inside us. Then He runs, sprints, kicks, dodges – and scores. Within us. For us and through us. And then I realize I've been an avid spectator all along, one of His biggest fans, unbelievably proud to be on His team.

Think spring

My friend (and pastor) Peggy loves being outdoors, but only when it’s warm. I watch her all winter long, wrapped in warm coats and hats and gloves, frozen, longing for the temperature to rise and for things to bud and turn green. When it finally happens, when spring arrives, Peggy will spend hours outside, digging, pruning, planting, watering, nurturing. Making her yard beautiful even as she finds renewal in her soul.

And even though I’m not a much of an outdoor person, and even though I don’t like to work in my yard, I do understand. It’s discouraging when we look out the window, day after day, at gray, dripping, soggy skies, sodden ground, dirty snow. Sometimes during the winter we lose our sense of joy, letting outward circumstances cloud our perceptions. Our bodies and our minds respond to the drabness of the weather, and we close in on ourselves, shutting out the world.

But at some point during the winter, things start to change. They’re subtle clues we may not be consciously aware of — but suddenly it feels like spring is on its way. Out of nowhere, even if it’s still cold and gray, spring is on our minds. Our emotions become buoyant.

I think that the hope God promises feels a lot like spring. Something rises up inside and makes us feel as though life is full of possibilities. Our souls leap for joy when we see a flower bud appear seemingly out of nowhere. The very air feels different, refreshing instead of stale. Having been shut in for so long, wrapped in layers of warmth, our bodies pull us outside, into the air, exulting in the warmth and the potential and the promise of spring. The earth seems to be shouting that there are great things to come. We begin waiting with expectation, no longer dragging our feet or feeling like it will be months before there is any relief. We have hope. Promise. Possibility. Expectation. And with our renewed hope comes renewed faith, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We don’t have to see it to know it’s on its way.

Unlimited potential

My son Bobby loves to play the piano. He picks out melodies of songs we sing at church, he embellishes with chords, he plays the same songs over and over and over. For Christmas, he got a keyboard. Whoa. Have you ever seen the look in a child’s eyes when he is suddenly handed a tool with practically unlimited potential? A kind of awe descends on him. All the power, all the possibilities, all the potential.... Wow. There are rhythms and different instruments and speeds and styles and volumes and melodies and background tracks. It’s overwhelming and exhilarating and it’s hard to know where to begin. So much to explore. Within moments of seeing his new keyboard, the excitement and anticipation took over, and now Bobby spends hours and hours experimenting every single day. What happens if he pushes this button? What if he plays this song with a jazzy drum beat in the background? Maybe a little faster? Louder? How many combinations are possible?

There was a time when I felt the same sense of awe about being a Christian. I was aware of the potential power of our prayers. I was expecting the interesting, amazing, and unbelievable. We have been given gifts of unlimited potential. We don’t really have any idea how much we could accomplish if only we focused, practiced, experimented, and opened our minds to the outrageous possibilities. Jesus told us we could lay hands on the sick to heal them. We can cast out spirits. We can do all things through Christ. And when we’re new to the faith, it seems easier to believe that. We try Him and see. But after we’ve been around the body of Christ for a while, it seems that many of us cease to be impressed by the power that is before us. Like a child on a piano, we’ve already played the songs we know – and with practice, we’ve gotten pretty good, so why try something new?

This is why. Because the Master can orchestrate things we can’t imagine on our own. He writes the brilliant compositions, and He’s given us all the instruments we need to perform them. We just need to allow Him to take the lead, and prepare to be amazed by the music.

Limited resources

I’m at a time in my life in which my finances are tight. My main client is having difficulties, and it’s been three months since I got my monthly retainer. I find myself going over my bills, prioritizing. If I only have so much money, I can only cover certain things. I have to look at the big picture, and try different combinations, and figure out which bills to pay from each check that comes in. I know, it’s simply basic budgeting. It’s what everyone has to do at some point in their lives. We make informed decisions, and then we do the best we can. Sometimes we’re fortunate and it’s not a challenge – there’s enough there to pay whatever comes in. And sometimes it’s like a gigantic, precariously balanced puzzle. Since I’m not independently wealthy, even when things are good, I’ll always be dealing with limited resources. There is never going to be enough for everything.

Besides money, I have plenty of other prayer concerns. My unsold house, which is contributing to our tight finances. My mom’s health, which is currently very good. My sister’s friend Teresa, who is being faced with a sudden, scary, serious diagnosis. My cousin, who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Situations affecting my friends — conflict, hurt feelings, marriages that are strained, jobs that are iffy. There’s always something. Many somethings. Some more important than others, but they all weigh on us. It seems hopeless and overwhelming sometimes. Too much. Too, too much.

But here’s the thing. Our God is a big God. “Is there anything too hard for me?” he asks. No. But it gets even better. He didn’t tell us we had to pick just one thing to pray about. We don’t have to evaluate the situations, decide which is the most important, and give up on all the rest. We are not dealing with the finite, but with the infinite. He is the omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful Creator. He can make something from nothing. He can form, design, mold, and invent. Even if our answer doesn’t exist yet, even if there doesn’t seem to be enough to go around. Our God is a big God. And His resources are unlimited.