Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons from a Fisherman

I just got back from my fishing trip in Manteo at the outer banks. We're fishing in the surf which isn't easy. I'm not much of a fisherman. I don't have the patience for it. But I'm here trying to learn about fishing. Jesus compared the core pursuit of the Christian life to fishing. As we continue the pursuit of acquiring enough fish for a fish fry I've been thinking of the pursuit of being fishers of men. That was what Jesus said we were to be.  So here are my observations about how be an effective fisherman.

1. Find the right place
The place we chose dramatically affected how effective our fishing was.  When we made a good choice and found a good spot, the fishing was good.   However, when the spot was not as good the results weren't that good either.  As Christians, we need to out ourselves in the right place to be effective.  As a Christian, you don't become effective by fishing at the church.  There aren't any fish there.  To be a good fisherman you have to go where the fish are.  Any decent church should be full of fishermen, not fish, that means we need to get away from the church.  

2. Use the right bait
On our trip in, we stopped to purchase some fish and shrimp for bait.  We could have used lures I suppose but that would not have been the right bait for the fishing we were doing.   There is such a thing as using the right bait in becoming an effective christian too.  Too many Christians and churches use the wrong bait.  They substitute morality or religion for faith and forgiveness.  Jesus never addressed people on the basis of their moral failures or successes.  He talked to them about there real need.  He talked to them about their need to know and experience the presence of God.  Too many churches use the loser bait of church attendance.  The bait that attracts people is the transforming love of God.   

3. Use the right method
I've been fishing with my father hundreds of times.  My father is a real, old timey, seaside fisherman.  I've seen him sometimes add more weight to his line.  I've seen him change the line to a heavier line.  I've also seen fish using a fly fishing rod.  He uses a variation of bait and lures.  I've been with him fishing in creeks, lakes and the ocean and seen him switch it up based on the situation.  I was talking one of my guys on the fishing trip and this is the principle he described about fishing:  "The conditions have to determine the type of fishing you do."

As I think about our call as Christians to be fishers of men, I think the methods we use are also important.  And unfortunatley some methods are losers.  Every method doesn't work for every person.  The way I would talk to a child about Jesus is very different from the way I would an adult.  I would talk to an adult I knew well differently than I would someone I just met.  There have been times when all I did was to say "do you want to be a Christian?"  There have also been times when I took food, and repeatedly visited someone in an effort to reach them.  Every person is different and methods we use might have to be changed based on the person.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Gone Fishin"

I'm fishing with the boys from the church.  I left a sign on my door that said "Gone Fishin."  I really don't know much of anything about fishing.  I'm going mainly to be with the boys.  I will add fishing to my long list of things I have done in the service of the Lord to promote fellowship.  Already on that list are things like deer hunting, hunting with bows, rafting, camping, monster truck races, a NASCAR race, High School Football Games, a Bull Riding Event, bowling, and many others.  Some of these things I found to be very compelling and interesting experiences.  Others I did because they were opportunities to be with my people.

It seems to me that the work of the small church and smaller community is done in the context of fellowship and relationships.  Experts on evangelism would tell us about the importance of relationships in influencing other people.  Relationships lie at the very core of touching others.  The small church knows this I think.

Relationships are everything in the small church or community.  We of small communities know that relationship provide the opportunities to support and influence others.  An opportunity exists before you through the relationships you have.  The questions is "Will you take it?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Divided Household

Sanctified Tar Heel, that me.  And I live in a divided household, only not the kind you might think.  Have you ever seen one of those houses that has a flag out front with two school mascots on it?  Part might be red and have a wolf on it and the other part might be blue and have a ram on it.

My wife and I have an agreement.  I am a Redskin by marriage and she is a Tar Heel by marriage.  I agree to be a Redskin fan.  She agrees to be a Tar Heel fan.  She embraces my lifelong love of Tar Heel basketball.  My father went to UNC and we grew up going to Tar Heel basketball and football games.  My wife grew up outside of Washington D.C. and grew up following the Redskins.  Sunday football in her house was a religious experience.  So I live in a divided household.  It is a household divided by sport and divided by team.

We are also united.  We both are Tarheels.  We both are Redkins.  I complain equally about Tarheel coaching and Redskin ownership.  I lament the end of football season for her and she endures Carolina's inevitable post season demise with me.  For me, this is a glimpse of what it means to be a partner.  Being a partner means sharing in one another's pains, joys, triumphs and tears.  One of the greatest experiences I can have as a partner is when my wife shares with me about a client who says she is the best photographer they have ever had and they are telling all their friends about her business.  If she's happy, I'm happy.  Divided household?  Well, not really, united housed is more like it.

Memories of a Mother-in-law

My mother-in-law's birthday would have been the other day.  This is her third birthday since her untimely passing in a one car accident.  My wife and children acutely feel her loss on days like that, and so do I.  So I have been thinkin my favorite memories of my mother-in-law.  There are many, and it impossible to choose, but I have tried to do so. 

1.  The Christmas Wrapping Paper Nazi.  Yes that is what she was.  I have to admit I never put any thought into wrapping paper until I got married.  Yes, I did look for paper that had a Santa or Rudolf, maybe some bells or something like that on them.  I wasn't so far gone as not to do that but that was as far as it went for me.  She, however, took wrapping paper serious.  She would never have settled for low rent wrapping paper.  And it wasn't just the paper either.  A family member would not adequately understand how much she loved them without a complicated bow or decoration.  And no cheapo dollar store bows either!  Then there was the problem of making sure a box to be wrapped was properly taped.  Now for me, a box taped in couple of place would have been sufficient.  The Christmas Wrapping Paper Nazi would not settle for that though.  A box needed to be taped shut in several places on each side of the box.  There was no room for error when it came to wrapping presents.

2.  The Cookie Monster.  Somehow, during the early days of our marriage, my mother-in-law became aware of a preference of mine for shortbread cookies.  Hardly a Christmas went by when I didn't receive a box or sometimes two boxes of shortbread cookies for Christmas.   My young children also grew to look forward to Christmas and the shortbread cookies that they would have there.  She was definitely a monster when it came to the shortbread cookies.

3.  Dang Yankees and the Southern Boys.  It sounds like the battle of the Bands but it's not.  I remember the first time I went to Thanksgiving with my wife's parents the year before we got married.  Thanksgiving with my wife's Yankee family was a shock.  In the intervening years, my mother-in-law made it her business to incorporate the thanksgiving traditions her two southern son-in-laws would be familiar with into a hybrid thanksgiving celebration complete with the sweet tea of the deep south and mashed potatoes made the southern way.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter(She passed the day before Easter) have been difficult times these last few years.  My most precious memories of her are during those times though.  She was a woman with a great capacity for compassion, generosity, and she lived a life passionately following the path of Jesus.