Category Archives: Society

Wrestler shows what it means to win, even though you lost

I’m not sure what Malik Stewart believes about God, but I do know his actions demonstrate what God wants us to do:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Check out this very moving video:

 

How a word of support might change someone’s life, including your own

“I’m pretty disappointed I didn’t get into this certain program at college,” my daughter Bethany told me last night.

“I’m proud of you for getting into one of the programs the college offered, and this isn’t done yet,” I affirmed. “I’d reach out to the people in charge of the other programs and let them know you’re still interested. It’s all about people, and if you keep showing interest something might open up.”

And I kissed my daughter, told her I loved her, and let her know I’d help her in any way I could. And then I said good night.

A fairly common occurrence around our house, whether it’s my wife Julia talking to one of the kids, or me coming alongside them, or the two of us working together to help them through some issue or difficulty. Nothing very exotic or out of the ordinary.

And then, after the aforementioned discussion with Bethany, the revelation occurred. “And that’s exactly the kind of conversation missing from the lives of many of my students,” I shared with Julia.

I teach at a community college. There is a wide array of students seeking associate’s degrees or just trying to knock out some general education credits on their way to a four-year college. There’s the fresh-out-of-high-school student, the been-working-a-few-years-and-ready-to-get-going student, the single-mom-rebooting-her-life student, the starting-a-second-career student. Different ages, backgrounds, abilities, and support systems.

Quite a few of them, maybe more than I realize, have no support system.

When an opportunity disappears, they lose a job, a relationship ends, or they get a bad grade, they don’t have someone to step in and say, “Listen, I know what you’re made of; you can do better if you just get some help. And here are some places to get help, and I’ll go with you to back you up.” They have to back themselves up, and frankly, that gets pretty exhausting after awhile.

Buttressing themselves against disappointment and loss takes a lot out of them. I see it in some of their faces when I hand them a paper with a less than stellar grade. That’s why I try to say genuinely encouraging words to my students. I’m not perfect at it, and I don’t always think to do it, but on occasion I believe God has allowed me to say something that lets a student know they don’t have to go it alone.

I told one student recently that one of the best qualities she possessed was a teachable heart. She looked at me like she had just won the lottery. “Thanks Mr. Boyd,” she responded. “I really needed to hear that today.”

Words matter. What we say to people matters.

As I consider the theme of this blog, this is one of the most easily available ways for us to respond to the question, “What does God want me to do?”

He wants you to be a light. He wants you to point people to the Light. He wants you to do that through words and caring. He wants you to show compassion and affirm the God-given value of each person, bestowed at birth and confirmed by the Cross.

In some way, even if it’s to our kids for the thousandth time, or to a stranger who we may never see again, may we find the words by the Spirit’s direction that will help people know they aren’t meant to walk through their strife alone. They don’t have to do that.

And the biggest strife they’ll ever face has been resolved: the strife between themselves and a loving Father who has reconciled them through His Son. God give us the courage to let them know that:

“When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3a)

Or, in other words, God has your back.

Quarter-backing his faith with action

Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna will return to the Dallas Cowboys’ roster for one game this weekend.

Great story that came out this week as the NFL ramps up for the last week of regular season. This is courtesy of the Inquisitor. What does God want me to do? I think looking at Jon Kitna’s example might be a good place to start.

— Clem

………………….

Jon Kitna is donating his paycheck to Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. The retired NFL QB has been teaching math and coaching football at the Tacoma high school for the last two years. But after Tony Romo was injured last weekend, the Cowboys signed Kitna to a contract as their third string QB on Tuesday.

Jon Kitna will be donating $53,000 to the school that he led to an 8-2 record this past fall. His sophomore son, Jordan, was his starting QB. The Abes improved on their 5-5 record from their first season under Kitna, who has been coaching the team since retiring from his 15-season NFL career.

Kitna last started in the NFL for the Cowboys in 2010 when Tony Romo had a collarbone injury. Kitna was able to fill in for Romo and started nine games. The Cowboys were 4-5. Kitna does not expect to play much, as Kyle Orton is the Cowboys’ back-up. But Kitna saw Romo’s injury suffered during the Cowboys victory over the Redskins on Sunday, and reached out to Coach Jason Garrett via text.

“I told Jason if he wants me or somebody to come in and call a play and be able to pull a play off if a bad situation happened, I would be willing to do that.”

Lincoln High School is Jon Kitna’s alma mater. He played there in the late 80s and early 90s. After finishing up his NFL career in 2011, he returned to teach and coach at his home school. Speaking about his desire to give his life to helping young men, Kitna said:

“My wife and I always felt like these years in the NFL have prepared us for what our real calling in life is going to be as teachers and running a high school football program. I don’t think there’s anything that has changed from that. God has used my time in the NFL to train me to be ready to train young men to be authentic, real leaders, and to have a positive impact on society. And I want to use the avenue of football to do that. So I am very clear, and my wife is very clear in our calling.”

Jon Kitna donating his first paycheck to his high school makes complete sense considering he considers helping young men his life calling. It is great to see NFL players who understand how to use their opportunities to make a difference.

Would Jesus be friends with my friends?

What would Jesus do? That was a very popular phrase a couple years back. It’s a big question. How would Jesus respond in various situations we find ourselves in? Sometimes I have some sense of that and other times no. I can imagine myself being kind to children in the midst of a throng of adults. I’m a dad so I know how to do that, most days. I’ve never healed anyone, but I can always pray for people that God might heal them. Different I know, but I am counting on the same power source.

How about the people Jesus chose to hang out with? That’s where this can get a big tricky. He did not prefer the company of the religious leaders of his day. In fact Jesus had a reputation for hanging around with the wrong kind of people:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ (Luke 7:34, NIV)

So Jesus is accused of gluttony and drunkenness by the self-righteous, who would never have gone to the house of a guy like Zacchaeus, the little guy Jesus called down from the tree in Luke 19. Once again Jesus heard the familiar accusation:

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” (v.7)

Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a swindler. He admits it himself in a confession to Jesus:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (v.8)

Jesus’ response: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Jesus didn’t just plan to have dinner at Zacchaeus’ place but intended to stay the whole day according to Luke 19:5.

It makes me wonder as I consider my “friendships”: would I be accused of picking questionable company to hang out with. Or at least making friends with people who are really different than me. Do people look at some of my friends and wonder, “How did Clem get to be friends with him?” or vice versa, “How did this person become friends with Clem?”

Not that I’m great shakes that’s for sure. I’m got plenty of flaws and made some decisions others scratch their heads about. But it’s just this: as people would see me and my buds they’d realize there’s more of a bond than just sports or playing darts. And it might make them wonder, in a cool and good way, “What’s that about?”

It’s an important question for any of us who are serious about trying to follow the example of Jesus and do what he would do in our place. Are we building friendships on the number one qualifier of all from the Lord’s POV: openness to God and the message about Jesus Christ. If we are looking at friendships that way, we’ll end up in some excellent and unique company.

Uncle Si and Operation Christmas Child: a ducky collaboration

OCC

Click on the picture to go to Operation Christmas Child

Check out this video from Samaritan’s Purse, featuring the endearing, befuddling and totally funny Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty. What a great way to combine a current TV favorite with a super awesome organization and God’s eternal purpose.

For more information about Operation Christmas Child, visit their web site: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

Have a wonderful What Does God Want Me to Do? weekend.

5 questions to ask yourself when others (apparently) have it better than you

Some people, at least on the surface, appear to have it all. They’re good looking, smart, and athletic. They’re surrounded by loving families, and not just the immediate spouse and children, but the extended family too. There seem to be no missing pieces in their lives. Their homes are larger, backyards more spacious, and the conveniences of life more prevalent. They’re educational opportunities were greater and their children’s opportunities are just as great if not greater. This isn’t right!

As I reflect on my own life, I recognize that I’ve gotten a pretty good deal. I had a 15-minute walk to school, which I enjoyed. I mostly liked my teachers. I did well in school and got good marks. I had a group of friends to hang out with at lunchtime and during recess. I had one best friend, Scott, and we played sports, board games, hung out, and did school projects together. My dad was committed to one vacation every year, and we usually spent that week in Daytona Beach, FL. My whole family got together on major holidays. I went to amusement parks. I was decent if not outstanding at sports. I have not-so-great memories but also a bunch of great memories too. Some would say I hit the lottery.

There were problems too. My dad had a drinking problem and my mom’s health wasn’t that great, but that’s the life I knew. It was a good life in many ways. The kids I went to school with had pretty similar upbringings and family situations. I thought it was a rich life —— not wealthy “rich,” but full and satisfying.

High school was comparable. There were hard times, but good times too. I had a high level of stress some days but I survived and graduated and went on to college.

Some of my college friends were from similar backgrounds to mine. In particular, my best friend in those days, John, came from a middle class suburb in Cleveland. He had two brothers and a sister; his dad was an English teacher at the high school John attended, and his mom was a friendly, doting, funny homemaker.

I had other college friends, some of whom lived in suburbs of Dayton, OH, where I grew up. That’s when I began to notice my rich life was not as rich as I had supposed. Their homes were larger, their backyards more spacious, the conveniences of life were more prevalent and educational opportunities were greater!

For the last 20+ years of my life I’ve been a suburb dweller too. My kids have grown up in this environment. My wife, whose family began in Dayton, moved to a suburb called Kettering. Her parents carved out a simple and good life there. And we’ve been able to provide a decent place to live in a comfortable, safe community with really nice schools.

Since I’ve lived here 20 years, I’ve encountered neighbors and friends who have always lived in this sociological equivalent of a quilted comforter. And that started bugging me a little.

I began to wonder why God set me in a family where I was destined to attend an inner city public school system. Granted, the inner city school system of my era was not the same as today, but it was still inner city. Why are they living in a city where they know everyone from generations back and my classmates from high school are scattered all over the place and not as well connected? Why did their life incubator provide them so much love, support, and material blessing?

OK, so before I indulge any further in this self-absorbed judge-fest, I will acknowledge that just being born in the United States, even if I’m poor by American standards, makes me one of these over-blessed people. “According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for an individual in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., was $10,830 in 2010,” says Courtney Blair at PolicyMic.com. “Someone at the poverty line in the United States is in the top 14% of the global income distribution.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough hard facts about how great I’ve got it, back to me-absorbed bellyaching.

I’m not the first to wrestle with these blessing disparities. David verbalized it in Psalm 73:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. (v.2-6, NIV)

Of course, I can’t really say the people I envied were evil nor did I ever see them clothe themselves with violence. They seemed clothed in niceness and decentness. Actually, they might even be godly. But they were still blessed more than me. Argh!

So this is the part of the blog where I’m supposed to offer several tightly-edited life nuggets gathered from this journey of self-discovery. But really, I’m led to five questions that won’t tie this down neatly but just provoke more questioning:

1) Can I learn to deal with this? That’s really the question. God has given more to some than to others. The starting point is different but the ending point for Christians is the same. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV). We each have a race to run. Will we run our race, our way, with Him as the coach? How much ability to run, or how difficult the course, neither is in question in this verse. But will we run to the same finish line? That’s it.

2) Do I really believe God is fair? There’s something to the whole “to whom much is given” warning. Jesus says in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” God is a blesser. He’s also fair. His scales are accurate. That should be sobering for me, especially as I consider what I have compared to lots of other people in the world.

3) He’s either able to fulfill Romans 8:28 or he’s not — what will I believe? Familiar passage here: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT). Some people have been given a rough start in life. They were beaten, abandoned, and abused from day one. They don’t know one or more parents. They’ve been shipped around to other people’s homes all their lives. Without minimizing the pain of all that, I must still ask myself: can he make good on Romans 8:28 or not?

4) Do I sincerely believe this life is just a warm-up for eternity when all these differences in gifting, etc. won’t matter anymore? The only question that will matter then will be, “Was I faithful with what I had?” If I can’t get past the apparent disparities of today then my hope is really probably that this life is the end-all and be-all.

5) Can I still be grateful for all He’s done for me that I clearly don’t deserve? I should be thankful, but will I, by faith, choose to be thankful?

What does it take to wake the dead?

In honor of Halloween, when everything ghoulish and strange storms the scene, I wanted to consider what it really means for someone to become undead. I mean, that has to be one of the favorite themes of American life right now, the not-alive who become alive. Turns out, Jesus has a lot to say on that topic.

So a couple weeks ago a fellow professor announced to me, “I want to see someone rise from the dead.” Of the conversations I’ve had with other professors and staff at the community college, this was probably one of the most unusual. I’ve talked with other professors about politics, culture and other things, but not much about people rising from the dead.

This same colleague said that she had been taking a class at her church on the topic. That God would want to raise people from the dead, I have no doubt. Jesus raised people a couple times, and I’ve read about reports of this happening nowadays in places where Christian missionaries are active. And these aren’t brain-eating re-animated humans, but humanoids reinstated to life as they knew it — eating dinner, going to work, playing with the kids, arguing with the spouse — in non-decaying bodies.

As a way to demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ to people who may believe anything from voodoo to relativism, resurrection from the dead would seem to be a winner. How could you deny that something powerful and good was at work in bringing a loved one back from death? It just seems like one of those events that would capture the attention of even the most cynical skeptic. Come on, this guy was dead but now he’s alive!

My colleague said she was praying for the opportunity to be involved in bringing someone back from the dead. I’ve never thought of that as something that I should or could be involved in. Jesus did say those who believed in Him would do the kind of things he did, so why not?

Of course, it’s also clear that even a resurrection won’t convince some people. In what may be the most remarkably hard-hearted response to a rising from the dead, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day plotted to kill not just Jesus, but his friend Lazarus, who had just been summoned from his tomb.

“The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.” (John 12:9-11, NASB)

That would have to be an extreme major bummer. You die; Jesus comes by and brings you back to life; religious leaders of your community get ticked off about how your re-animation because it’s made Jesus more popular; they plan to do you in and send you back to the tomb.

There’s a parable in Luke 16 that describes a conversation between the patriarch Abraham and a rich man who’s in Hades. In the story the rich man begs Abraham to send a poor man named Lazarus (not the same man) to visit his brothers, who are still alive, and warn them to straighten out or face his fate.

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’” (Luke 16:29-30, NASB)

Seems reasonable to me. I think the dead man in Hades has a point. But not so, responds Abraham.

“But [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31, NASB)

Which I guess brought me to this realization: for the dead to become alive, it takes a softening of heart that enables us to believe that God’s truth is the truth. When I say dead in this instance, I’m talking about the condition of all people spiritually.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,” Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (v.4-5, NIV)

I remember hearing months after my conversion that there were many total strangers praying for my eyes to open to my own lost, hopeless, lonely situation. How could I possibly come to believe that an ancient teacher and supposed miracle worker was actually the Son of God whose death settled accounts with the Creator? It took people asking God to warm my heart to the remote notion that the Bible might actually contain a true account of this man named Jesus. And, according to Ephesians 2, God responded by opening my eyes and giving me the ability to believe. He raised me from the dead.

If I had seen someone rise from the dead that might have freaked me out in my pre-Christian state of mind, or I would have gone skeptic on the whole deal and just assumed it was staged. It does take a miracle for anyone to believe that Jesus is the unique savior of mankind, regardless what evidence we’re given.

However a person comes to faith, there were probably many prayers by God’s people for that “dead” person to find life. I’m glad someone was praying for Jesus to wake me from the dead. I am alive from the dead, but I’m no zombie.

Nicholas Cage in a movie about the Rapture?

left behindI haven’t heard much about Nicholas Cage since his money troubles were rolled out in the media last year. And now, this: starring in the reboot of the 2000 film Left Behind. What does God want me to do about this? Pray. This could end up being a very interesting conversation starter about what Christians believe, especially about the return of Christ. On IMDb one person responded to this film: “Is the rapture just an evangelical American thing?” Another interesting casting choice: Lea Thompson, best known for her role as Marty McFly’s mom Lorraine in the Back to the Future films, but also for her current role as Kathryn Kennish on the ABC Family series Switched at BirthPray with me about how God might want Christians to use this film to discuss Jesus and who He really is. The original producer, Paul Lalonde, is still involved, so hopefully the story stays true to the heart of the books. One last note: the director is Vic Alexander, who has assistant director credits for Thor (2011) and The Amazing Spider Man (2012). This is his directorial debut.

Narrow way or awkward way?

A1c“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (NASB, Matthew 7:14)

I suppose I’ve always sensed, at least since I really got into my faith about 1985 or so, that I needed to be there as much as possible for my wife, children, parents, friends and anyone else Jesus wanted me to hang with.

Because that’s been the big factor of my life, I’m a work-at-home dad and ministry guy. I wish I could say I’m always quick to tell people that. But I don’t usually say this. Am I ashamed of the life I’m confident Jesus has led me to? I don’t think so, but then sometimes I’m sucked into the manly game of “I am what I do” and I’m not sure my way of life will go down real well with certain people.

At a recent conference my default setting was “I’m a writer and editor.” That’s why I was there; a client of mine was rolling out a book I had helped her write. So it made sense. Plus I was networking, hoping to plant seeds that might bloom into future business. “I’m a work-at-home dad and ministry guy” just didn’t seem like the best intro for a let-me-help-you-write-your-next-book pitch.

Just the other day, as I was shopping for carpet shampoo (OK, all respect you may have had is out the window now), the shop owner asked me what I did. I said I was an English teacher at a local community college. This is also true. So sometimes my answer is just a function of who I’m with and what the goal of the conversation is.

I get funny looks from people sometimes when I do share about working part-time, or working at home. People won’t say it out loud, but I pick up from the furrowed forehead or the slightly raised eyebrow that they’re suspicious. Now, what they’re suspicious of I’m not sure. Maybe they think I play Mafia Wars or FarmVille all day.

B21d1I have to tell you, the hardest part about this odd arrangement of working, ministry and family life is the feeling that I’m a slacker. Wouldn’t a real man have a full time job and devote the majority of his productive hours at an office? I know that being a “real man” has nothing to do with holding a full-time job, but more with being a hard worker whatever I do, leading my family to know and follow the Lord, and loving those who can’t love back or won’t love back. Even still, it gets me sometimes.

And now’s the time for the “but I’m loved by Jesus” spiel. Which is absolutely true. And I’ll toss in Psalm 139 while I’m at it: yes, I am fearfully and wonderfully made; all God’s works are wonderful. That means me. And you too. All accurate and very proper to ponder. But the fact is, trying to live a life where you’re mainly available for God and the people He brings in your life can be weird. You’re constantly shaking out your work life, family life, hobbies and free time through the sifter question, “Is this a direction that will make me more available to follow Jesus or not?”

Not that I have any doubts about running major and minor life matters through the grid of that question. I’m just saying it can be odd. Other times, and really most of the time, it’s awesome because I have to dig more deeply into what God’s Word says, rather than what my feelings say or society thinks. It’s amazing that I’m a work-at-home dad and ministry guy.

The Holy Spirit will lift me too, and remind me this life is not what it’s about. This existence is prelude to the life that is really life, as Paul notes in 1 Timothy 6:19. So if I’m orienting myself today around the priorities of the next life — which has to do with Jesus and relating to other people— that will be awkward at times. It should be. And that’s OK. Better awkward now than awkward later.

 

Boy Meets God

boy-meets-world-movie-poster-1993-1010718957When I wandered into the kitchen this afternoon,  my daughter was watching an old episode of Boy Meets World. For those in the 20-to-30-something generation, Boy Meets World holds the same nostalgic value as The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family holds for those in my generation. Wholesome family situation comedy, corny but sincere, and a nice show to watch with the rest of the family on a Friday night.

As I popped a couple pieces of bread in the toaster I noticed the episode centered on a character named Shawn, who was the best friend of the main character Corey. Shawn came from a broken family and different people rally around him during the course of the show. In this episode Shawn had been tempted to join a cult, but one of his teachers, Mr. Turner, was talking to him about the dangers of such a move. At the end of the episode the teacher is in an accident. Shawn slips into Mr. Turner’s  hospital room, and begins a conversation with God, which starts at about 19:35 on the video and ends about 20:35. It’s worth a watch so it’s included here.

“God, I don’t want to be empty inside anymore.” Hearing that was like a shotgun blast in a canyon. It was the most theologically correct thing I’d heard on TV in years. We are empty, till we find ourselves filled by God. And that’s why Jesus told the very empty Samaritan woman he met,

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14, NIV)

And apparently the writers of the show realized this classic human problem too. And even though I saw this episode 16 years after it first appeared, I was still encouraged to see it on ABC Family today. Because today, 16 years ago, or 100 years in the future, the ultimate need of man has been and always will be for living water that will never run out. Maybe some kid, hanging out after school watching the tube, caught that message too. I can only hope.