Seven or eight years ago my oldest son, Benjamin, decided he was ready to ride a bike without training wheels. Some of the neighbor kids were doing it and he said he was ready too.
I found a wrench in the clutter of our garage and took the remaining training wheel off his little bicycle. He went and found Amber. He put his helmet on. We all walked over to the parking lot across the street from our house. It’s not a very big parking lot. About twenty spaces or so. It’s usually empty and that afternoon was no exception.
A kid riding a bicycle for the first time is one of those moments a parent waits for. Like walking for the first time or saying those first words or the first day of Kindergarten.
He was simultaneously excited and apprehensive. He knew the possibility of failure. Skinned knees or scraped elbows. He also knew of the possibility of success. A sense of accomplishment and riding his bike with his friends.
I got behind him. I pushed the back of his seat as he pedaled and turned. He was doing exceptionally well. After a few laps I let go. He kept pedaling and I told him it was all him. And then he fell. As a little guy on a little bike he didn’t fall too far or too hard. But he fell. It wasn’t painless. It didn’t help his confidence.
And then the moment of truth for Benjamin. Would he linger in his past or would he learn from it?
Our default is not to hop right back on the bike again. I’ve fallen off enough bikes (or something similar) to know such is the case. So I told him what a great job he was doing. I told him I wouldn’t let go until he is ready. I told him not to look back at me but to look forward at the road in front of him.
He wanted to ride the bike. Lingering wouldn’t get him there. Learning would. He got back on the bike and pledged he was going to get past his past. A few minutes later, he was riding his bicycle all by himself.
Think about your spiritual life. Experiencing God’s grace. Hearing God voice through Scripture. Connecting to God and others through prayer. Living as a forgiven and forgiving person. Serving and loving the world like Jesus served and loved the world. I think you have fallen off your bike from time to time. I know I have.
Are we going to linger in our past and let our past define our future? Or are we going to learn from our past and get back on our bikes?
Paul fell off his bike a number of times. But he learned and didn’t linger:
I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. –Philippians 3:13-14
A bike somewhere is calling your name. It’s time to get back on and start pedaling.
Memorial Day means different things to different people. It usually falls around the time of graduation and the ending of school. For some it is the beginning of summer. Picnics, BBQs, family reunions, and sporting events are all associated with Memorial Day. For some it is simply a welcomed day off from work.
For others Memorial Day is a sacred time. Memorial Day is a United States Federal Holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates United States men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.
A few years ago I visited two parents who lost their son in Afghanistan. The son was like a little brother to me—he was a youth in a church I served. We laughed about days past. I told them stories about their son and listened to many of theirs. We ate burgers and mashed potatoes together. They shared dreams that would never be fulfilled. Hopes that would never be realized. Even though the son died a few years prior to my visit, it was like the pain was as deep and real for them as if I was the person who was breaking the news to them for the very first time.
Then she looked at me with a tear flowing down her cheek like a sprinkle of rain dripping down a rock. I’ll never forget what she said: “One thing we are learning is that God knows what it’s like to lose a son for the freedom of many. In our darkest moments, He has always been our shining light.”
Freedom isn’t free. Attorneys don’t provide freedom of speech. Soldiers do. Preachers don’t give freedom of religion. Military families do. We are grateful for soldiers, sailors, and their families.
As Americans we are blessed with political, economic, and religious freedom as no other group of people in the history of the world has ever been blessed before. This did not come without a high price. Many of us have known somebody who has lost their life defending the things that make the United States so great. As Christians we are blessed with spiritual freedom as well. Things like hope, forgiveness, and grace give us both an abundant and eternal life. This did not come without a high price either. Jesus lost his life so we can experience a full life that will last forever.
To all those who have served, who are serving, and their families—thank you!
Moms. There is nothing quite like a mother. I have visited hundreds of new mothers in the hospital. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. She holds the baby in her arms and is as proud as proud gets. A smile is on her face that is indescribable. She’ll learn over the next few decades that a mom just never stops being a mom. Dirty diapers, scrapped knees, spelling tests, failures, broken hearts, graduation, sending them off to college, a wedding, grandchildren, distance, disease, and dysfunction. A mom never stops being a mom.
The Bible tells us to honor our mother (Exodus 20:12). For some of us this task is simple and natural. For others it is difficult and contrived. Some mothers are nearly perfect. Others have made so many mistakes that only God can clean up the mess. Either way, God says, “Honor your mother.”
My mom is imperfectly perfect. She was a single mom. An accountant with demanding hours. I ran track and cross country in high school and college. She drove thousands of miles to see me run around a 400 meter track countless times. She was my biggest fan – celebrating the victories and encouraging me on the days I wished I was on the golf team instead of being a distance runner.
She is not perfect, but as far as moms go, I am blessed. She enjoys and loves her many grandchildren. But she still loves me like I am the only one there is to love.
The role of being a parent is holy and sacred. Even if the parents are neither holy nor sacred, the role of parent is still sacred. Being a parent is ordained by God, the creator and sustainer of life. Being a parent has responsibilities and rights. The responsibilities are many.
Entire books have been written on parenting: but praying, playing, listening, and modeling a Christian life are a good start. These responsibilities are for the parent of a six year old child and the parent of a sixty year old child. The rights are many as well: smelling the hair of a sleeping baby who has recently been bathed, laughing with the child exploring life, watching the child hit baseballs or dancing dances or singing songs, witnessing the child become who God wants the child to be, and having that child care for you when you are no longer able to care for yourself just like you once cared for the child when he or she was not able to take care of himself or herself.
Today is Mother’s Day. God’s command to honor your mother applies today as it does every day. Honoring them doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or worshipping them. It means seeing them for who they are and who they are not. It means loving God and our neighbor as faithfully and selflessly as mothers at their best have tried to love us. It means listening to them, praying for them, playing with them, and taking care of them to the end of their days on earth.
I write this on May 1st. I look out my office window. The skies are grey. It looks cold out probably because it is. The soccer team I coach has only played two games—the rain has taken care of the rest of them. But it’s May 1st and summer will be here soon. Benjamin told me this morning he has 18 days of school left. We’ve had a great stat to 2014 and two-thirds of the year remains.
Worship at The Water's Edge
So Far in 2014 For the first four months of the year, WE have averaged 575 adults and 135 children (fifth grade and under) per weekend. Both these are an increase of 10% from our final 2013 numbers. We have 59 new members so far in 2014 – 47 of those have been by profession of faith.
In the first third of the year, you have given $229,260, which is an increase of over 18% for the same period last year. Our monthly EFT contributions are now $17,200 per month, which is a 40% increase from last year! It is important to note, as the size of our ministry increases, our generosity will need to increase proportionately. I’m grateful for your generosity. It is a blessing to our church and our community.
I’m old enough to remember full-service gas stations. Some of you don’t have a clue what I am talking about. Others of you smile and remember days gone by. Summer can be a time for vacations, baseball games, and weekend excursions. I also pray summer is a time of growth for you. We are all responsible for our own spiritual growth. In June, we are going to spend five weeks learning how to set time aside for life’s most important things, how to read the Bible, how to pray, and how to grow in community. In addition to our Sunday worship experiences, we will have print and video resources available and unique summer small group opportunities.
Our WE Garden is fenced in, irrigated, and ready to be planted. We have 33 total plots and they are sold-out. It’s going to be cool to see new friendships being formed and healthy vegetables being produced.
WE at Night
I encourage you to try out WE at Night. If you have a busy Sunday morning, are returning from out of town, or just want to get some stuff done on Sunday morning – come worship at Palisades Elementary on Sunday evening at 6:00. It’s the same message as Sunday mornings in a more intimate and interactive setting.
We will be having a Church Conference after the 10:30 worship experience on Sunday, June 1st. The sole purpose of this meeting will be to approve our Building Team as we take the next steps in transitioning from temporary facilities at Palisades and Millard West to our permanent home at 198th and Harrison. You will hear more about this in coming weeks, but save the date and be in prayer! Exciting times are ahead.