Jackson Five Friday: Orange Wristbands

IMG_1379

 

In September my church kicked off a new emphasis on discipleship, using Franny Channy’s book Multiply as a tool. The book is orange and orange signs abound in and around our church. Our pastor, Lon Solomon, even sported orange shoes one week as a visible sign of commitment.

It may seem wholly unrelated that we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday in September as well. We took her to dinner in Baltimore and met up with family from Pennsylvania. After a delightful and yummy dinner we walked to the edge of the Inner Harbor, and passed a doorman, at the Marriott, named Kenneth.  Kenneth was a friendly guy and engaged Nate in conversation. If there was some measure of how adept a child is at this type of encounter, Nate is upper, upper echelon.   The kid can talk to anyone, and he says interesting, winsome things.  He introduces himself with a handshake and looks people straight in the eye.  It’s a tremendous gift.  He’s ten now, but he’s been making fans out of strangers since he was two years old.  So Kenneth took a liking to Nate immediately and said, “Hey, I’d love to show you guys the view from the observation deck.”  Now, we weren’t staying at this hotel.  We were just walking by.  But that’s Nate for you.  We probably spent about fifteen minutes with Kenneth.  He took the picture above — and he was right, the view was amazing.

On the way out Kenneth said, “Wait, I have something for you guys” and handed the boys little velvet bags of goodies.  Inside were plastic jewels (maybe for diving for in a pool?), a pirate eye patch, and an orange Nickelodeon wristband.  A random little exchange and a random little gift, but Sam especially, was elated.

IMG_1381

Daddy Will decided he’d start wearing the wristband himself, in support of Multiply.  It stands out with a pin-striped suit mind you, but maybe it would be the impetus for some interesting conversation.  As an aside, a couple of weeks later our church passed out actual Multiply wristbands — but we weren’t there because someone in our house was sick or something. So Will has been wearing this Nickelodeon wristband for more than a month and not a single person has acknowledged or asked about it.  Not one.  Well, until two days ago.

photo-8

Two days ago Will and I were out to lunch with Will’s brother, Tom, who was in town for a business conference.  We sat in a booth, Will tucked back into one corner with his injured leg propped up on the bench, and Tom and I sat across.  Wonder of wonders our waiter, who looked to be in his early twenties, was also sporting an orange wristband.

“What’s the significance of the orange wristband?” Will asked.

“Oh,” he said, “It’s a brewery that benefits lost dogs.”

We all laughed a bit because obviously that’s not the answer we were expecting.

Will then said, “Oh okay, because I have one too, but mine is for a series at my church.”

Then our eagle-eye waiter said, “Does that say Nickelodeon?”

“Uh, yes, it does,” Will admitted, as I burst out laughing my horrific hyena laugh.  In fact the awkwardness of it struck me as so hilarious that I could barely stop laughing.  So the wristband has still not lead to a single syllable of significant conversation!

But that’s not really the point, is it?  The point is to be ready.

Peter writes that we are to be always prepared “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  1 Peter 3:15

Praising God today that Will and I know this hope.  We know the reason for it.  May we always be willing to share it with gentleness and respect.

Repenting from Self-Effort

I think for some people the biggest obstacle to faith in Jesus is that they must repent — they must turn away — from their modus operandi in life.  Perhaps this is especially true here in the United States where self-determination, epitomized in the self-made, rags to riches man, is pervasive.  Of course, the humanist is no less guilty of self-madeness, but it looks different.  Theirs isn’t a rags to riches accomplishment, but an “I’m a good person” achievement.  Both are wrong-headed.  No one on the face of the earth can ensure this very day is not their last.  It is common grace that allows us to wake up tomorrow, whether that’s acknowledged by the masses or not.  No one can honestly claim to be self-made.

And the self-assessment of the humanist that he or she is “good,” ignores the standard which is perfection.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23  Being around people who have a hard time admitting they have any faults is trying, to say the least.  They blame others for their failures and try that utterly pitiful game that they aren’t as bad as some.  How silly is that?  Who cares that you didn’t physically commit murder?  Jesus says hating someone is murder too (Matthew 5:21-22).   The idea that you could ever be confident of being on the winning side of some undefined goodness continuum takes an enormous, enormous amount of blind faith.  It reminds me of the scene from Finding Nemo that portrays the sharks’ twelve step program.  The sharks yell out, “DENIAL!”  People need to quit kidding themselves: no one is ever good enough.  The standard is unattainable.  In fact, in part, that’s what the Old Testament is about, thirty-nine books illustrating the futility of self-effort.

But it’s hard to truly admit: “No matter how loving I am, no matter how good of a neighbor, no matter how generous and philanthropic, no matter how great of a parent, no matter how patient I am with the person I find most annoying, no matter how self-sacrificing I am, I can never ever earn my way to heaven.”

As Franny Channy says, “Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves — for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine).

It’s moving from pride and self-determination to reliance on Jesus in ALL things.  And it’s the best move we can make today and every day.

Lord Jesus, may I rely on You and You alone not just for my salvation but for living out Your plan for my life every moment of every day.

Convictions, Spurring and Multiplying

In some ways, I am pretty open about my faith and life.  I’ve been blogging with varying degrees of regularity since 2008 with more than 300 posts, and I’ve published a book as well.  But I’ve been convicted lately over my lack of boldness.  I’ve often aimed to make my writing more reflective than proscriptive, because I have a scared stiff fear of coming across as preachy.  As a writer, as a person, what could be worse?

But in some respects I’ve let that fear muzzle my writing.  I believe part of it has been trying to appeal to a wide audience.  Honestly, when I first started blogging I had dreams of being discovered as a writer, of having my blog go viral.  But that hasn’t happened, and over time I’ve realized that’s not really what I want anyway.  I am not the kind of person who would be good at building online community.  That skill set is just plain not mine.  I have a hard enough time keeping up with my in-the-flesh community.   In fact, that’s another area of recent conviction: I am miserable about making myself available to my friends.  Miserable.  And that needs to change.

One source of these convictions is a series that we are doing at my church called Multiply.  It is a Bible study by Francis Chan and my pastor, Lon Solomon, is leading the church through the study and everyone is supposed to go through the book in a small group (I haven’t even started the small group part yet).  But as is usually the case with Franny Channy (that’s how my husband and I lovingly refer to him), the Multiply book is full of challenging and profound quotes.

One is that “[t]he emphasis of Multiply is to get you in the habit of passing on the knowledge you gain.”  How are you doing on that?  Do you hold back because you fear coming across as preachy or a know-it-all?  What keeps you from passing on what you know about God, about life, about raising kind and loving children, about building strong relationships?  No one apart from Jesus has ALL the answers, but are you faithful about sharing the answers you do have?

Another Franny Channy quote is that we need to “share life, not just information.”  And this gets back to my availability problem.  I love writing and sharing — it’s incredibly fulfilling for me, and I miss it terribly when I don’t carve out time to do it.  But I’d rather have two readers that I know and love, than one hundred I’ve never met.  This blog then is not about building online community — but about sharing with YOU, my friend.  So with all of that as background, I hope to post more faithfully in the days ahead and am praying that my posts will be affirming and true and funny, boldly pointing to Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life”  (John 14:6).

I learn so much through the process of writing and I am grateful and honored that YOU, my friend, would take the time to read.  It truly means so much to me.  May we spur one another on and multiply with abandon!