Thursday, August 28, 2008

Embacing The Energy of Friendship

I am currently spending the week at a retreat center in Northern Minnesota, privileged to be the evening speaker for the Minnesota Special Touch Getaway. Let me offer you a window into my week... and a powerful observation available if you you are willing to take the time for a deeper look.

Even the most casual glance at the group assembled at Lake Geneva Christian Center this week would reveal that it is anything but typical. If one is not careful all that will be seen is the disproportionately large number of wheelchairs and walkers. A little closer observation reveals that in addition to the physical difficulties, a significant number of participants at this getaway face the daily challenge of a wide variety of special needs. It would be easy to stop there, and in so doing come to an incomplete conclusion. Echoing the words of the Apostle Paul, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened..." Come with me, let's take a closer look:

Jason and David are engaged in deep conversation, sharing with one another the wonders of God. The conversation is slow, due in large part to Jason's unstable hand as he points to letters on a board to spell each word of his thought. Yet, David is patient, focused on hearing what his friend has to say. He has positioned his wheelchair close to Jason, assuring that he clearly sees each word Jason painstakingly spells out. Sara is having a particularly difficult day. She is quickly offered a hug from Tammy, which leads to a large group hug and a wealth of smiles. A food tray is dropped in the dining hall, and amazingly there is no laughter which is typical of most mishaps at a camp cafeteria, instead individuals quickly rush to give aid.

Friends make their way from one activity to the next hand in hand, each one choosing not to focus on their own life challenges, encouraged by the common bond they share. Instead they find mutual acceptance, mutual support, and mutual strength from one another.

What we discover is a very real picture of God's intent when He declared, "bear one anothers burdens." We witness the power of "encourage one another and build each other up." We realize the impact of "accept one another." A true understanding of true friendship is revealed.

We live in our culture where it is generally unacceptable to reveal our weaknesses. We go to extraordinary lengths to masks our flaws and in so doing create a handicap in one of the key areas of life - relationships.

This amazing group gathered in northern Minnesota this week offers a great lesson to us in overcoming our friendship handicap, in conquering our relationship disabilities. The example they provide in unconditional acceptance and mutual support provides a clear picture of how life should be, could be, if we simply push past our struggles to true friendship.

The picture provided by this amazing group offers a compelling question: what would life be like if we all chose to follow their example and embrace the biblical directives regarding friendship. I think we should give it a try, don't you? :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beyond All Limits

A late night of bingo and bonfires made getting up this morning a challenge. The annoying beep of a cheap alarm clock offered a not so gentle reminder that the day was starting, and if I did not get out of bed it would start without me. My mind quickly cycled through a litany of excuses for staying in bed, and I must admit a few of them sounded pretty good... at least to me.

After a quick shower and a few cookies (the breakfast of champions), I was out the door just in time to see the parade of wheelchairs and walkers pass by. It was time for morning recreation at the Minnesota Special Touch Getaway. This morning's activities included an obstacle course and paintball art. I have been privileged to be a part of numerous getaways with Special Touch, but never cease to be amazed at the truly remarkable ministry.

I could not help but be filled with a sense of wonder as I watched the various guests make their way through the obstacle course constructed out of bales of straw and mattresses. The focus this morning was not on their disability, it was on maximizing their ability. The response of one Sam, one of the guests at the getaway perfectly illustrated the morning. Sam was initially tentative as he began to navigate the obstacle course. He asked for assistance a few times and thought of quitting part way through, but with a little encouragement he finished the course. His broad smile said it all as he raised his arms and exclaimed, "I did it." No Olympian in Beijing had a greater sense of accomplishment than what we witnessed in Sam today. Sam set his own world record this morning. What he initially thought was impossible became a possibility, an insurmountable obstacle was conquered, and a limitation became a liberty.

It makes me ponder, what impossibilities in my life can become possibilities if I simply listen to the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, welcome the help of those around me, and press forward in spite of the anxieties along the way. Scripture is indeed correct when it declares, "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


The national anthem is my musical backdrop as I write this post. Michael Phelps and the American men stand on the podium at the National Aquatic Center in Beijing as their flag is raised celebrating a world record breaking swim in the 400 meter relay.

Earlier today, French team captain Alain Bernard declared that there was no doubt that his team from France would defeat the Americans. He promised a clear cut victory, saying "we will smash the Americans." Bernard now stands beside Phelps on the podium.... although his place is a little lower as the silver medalist.

Shortly after the world record setting swim, Michael Phelps was asked about Bernard's comments. His response, "We determined that we would not respond with words, we would rather offer our answer to Bernard's statement with a statement of our own in the pool.

Proverbs 17 declares, "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint,and a man of under-standing is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

As I ponder these thoughts there is much I could say.... then again, it is probably best if I keep silent (isn't that wise!)


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I love a good mystery. I grew up on the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and read every Encyclopedia brown book that has been printed. We live in a world that is full of mystery. For example, there is an elite group of men who hold what some would consider lofty positions who make it a point never to travel together because of security reasons. They always make separate arrangements, even if they are going to the same place. If disaster would strike their vehicle or aircraft, at least the others would be alive to carry on their mission, and to protect their secret.

Who are these men and what secret are they keeping? They are the company executives and the chief chemist of a company whose name is known around the world: Coca Cola. What they are protecting is the secret formula for the world’s most popular soft drink. Somewhere in a bank vault in Atlanta, Georgia is a slip of paper with eighteen mostly common ingredients that constitute the famous soda.

Elsewhere, in a heavily armored vault in Lexington, Kentucky is another closely guarded secret: the colonel’s eleven herbs and spices which make up the batter for Kentucky fried chicken, to ensure that vendors don’t know the formula for this celebrated mixture, the secret blend is mixed in two different locations and then combined at a third location with the aid of a sophisticated computer system.

While many are working rather diligently at keeping their secrets, God chooses to reveal His great mysteries to us:

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2&3

You have a wonderful place to go when you need wisdom and knowledge. You can go to Jesus Christ! Remember that you have been made a co-heir with Christ:“Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” Romans 8:17.

We find great comfort in the truth that all believers can receive God’s wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5. God does not want His will and His wisdom to be inaccessible secrets, but wants to share all that He has with us through Jesus Christ. Most of all, God desires to share His wisdom with us so that we can know Him in a deep and intimate way.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him.” Ephesians 1:7-10

It is no mystery that God loves us! He has also made known His plan for us as a church. He desires to use us to reveal His wonderful mysteries to the people within our sphere of influence, and ultimately our entire world. Isn’t it great when a mystery is solved!