"I need to get back into the driver's seat." That's the thought that came to me this morning as I stumbled out of bed with yet another ache of unknown origin. Like many of you I am guilty of allowing my schedule, my business and the hectic pace of life to dictate everything else. I make excuses like, "I don't have time to eat right" and "When could I possibly go the gym?" As a result of my excuses, I now have aches and pains in places that I didn't now I had. I say things like, "I have a bad foot" and "I have this thing with my shoulder". Yes, I have become that guy. Here's the deal, this didn't happen overnight. No one wakes up and says, "Hey, today's the day that I start to live an unhealthy lifestyle." Like with a lot of negative habits, it happens slowly, inch by inch, little by little we start to get lazy, eat more than we should and sleep a little later each day. One day we realize that we're no longer driving, we've slid over to the passenger seat and something else entirely is driving.
As a kid I remember seeing my parents behind the wheel and having this insatiable desire to reach over and grab the wheel in an effort to have my turn at driving. It looked like fun and I wanted a turn. Well as we all now know, reaching over to grab a steering wheel can result in some hazardous results...like landing in a ditch. While snatching the wheel back in an actual car is a bad idea it's perfect for the wheel of life. Our schedules will never lighten up, responsibilities will never lessen, and you will never get less tired. Now is the time to snatch the wheel back. Of course you may run the risk of careening off the road, but in reality you're headed there anyway by keeping things the way they are. Get back in driver's seat!
Here's something that I bet many of you didn't know. That's a John Deere F735 diesel tractor with a 60" cutting deck. If you're in to John Deere equipment then maybe you did know that, but here's something I guarantee you didn't know: This tractor is for sale!
I was chatting with our Camp Manager yesterday when he casually mentioned that this tractor was for sale. Noticing that there wasn't a "For Sale" sign on the mower, I asked some follow up questions. "How are you selling it?" "Have you posted it anywhere?" "Do people know that it's for sale?" He admitted that he had not posted it on the internet, there indeed was no "For Sale" sign to be posted and most surprisingly, no one was even aware that the tractor was for sale. The following thought popped into my head, "Is this tractor really for sale?" If no one knows, if there is no "For Sale" sign, if it's not been posted on the internet or anywhere else for that matter, then the answer is, "No". Upon this realization, I offered to snap some photos of the tractor and post it on Craigslist. Within just an hour or two we had received 5 phone calls or emails about interested parties. It's amazing the difference that can be made when a little intentional and pointed advertising is put forth.
This whole idea caused me to think about my life in perhaps a different light. How often do we claim something that isn't really true. As much as our camp manager said that this tractor was for sale, as much as he thought it was for sale, as much as he wanted it to be for sale, it wasn't really for sale until it was actually put up for sale. Too often in our lives, we claim that we live differently from those around us, we claim that we are Christ followers and we claim that we pattern our lives after Him: but do we really? John 13:35 says, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." 2 Corinthians 2:15 says, "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." Is it obvious to those around you that you are with Christ? Is it clear to those that you work with or hang out with that you are for Christ?
We can interact with the same people everyday. We can be convinced in our minds that we are for Christ. We can know in our hearts that we are for Christ. But what difference will that make in the end? People will pass by you everyday and assume that you are just like everyone else unless you tell them otherwise. Our camp manager's tractor looked like every other tractor that was out there, except this one was for sale: and now everyone knows! Who knows about you?
I've just completed 5 days of camp with high school students from all across Southwest Ohio. I'm sitting there on the left, with a look of rest, refreshment and eagerness for an awesome week ahead. While my current look probably doesn't reflect one of rest and refreshment, the week was indeed phenomenal. I am thankful to the 125 students, 22 counselors and all of the other great staff people that made the week come to life. I was fortunate to witness a side of students that many people never get to see. Too often as adults, we only see the young people around us through the eyes of the most recent news story of violence or teen pregnancy. As a result, we can easily cast every teenager into that mold. We seldom give them the benefit of the doubt, we're usually suspicious and always assume that they are up to no good. While teenagers can be known for not always making the greatest of decisions, there's more than meets eye behind many of them.
Over the years, two special traditions have been developed at Camp 9Twelve. The first are known as "Character Awards". These awards are presented to students who demonstrate leadership, enthusiasm and encouragement. These awards are taken from the character qualities of Paul, Peter and Barnabas from the Bible. Every year students are given an opportunity to vote for the current year's recipients and trophies are presented at the end of the week. While many teenagers are indeed causing trouble and throwing away their futures, these awards prove that there are others who are choosing a different path. What's amazing about these character awards is that it's never difficult to come up with students who have consistently demonstrated these qualities throughout the week. Students want to do right. They want to be good. Deep inside of them there is something that clicks when they receive recognition for living a life of character.
The second tradition that developed seven or eight years ago is the hosting of the Warren County DD group. Each year, Warren County brings out 5 or 6 bus loads of developmentally challenged adults to spend several hours at camp. This year our high school students spent over three hours with close to 40 developmentally challenged adults. There were groups that fished, danced, colored, played cards, took walks and played soccer. All across our campus small groups of students looked up from their devices and personally engaged those whom society has deemed outcasts. Deep inside of students and adults for that matter, is a little something that feels right and whole when the focus shifts from selfishness to others centered. What's amazing is that every year without fail there are numerous camp evaluation sheets that all say the same thing: "We loved working with the people from Warren County. Please do that again next year."
Maybe the "problem" with teenagers isn't solely on their end. Maybe they do need to start making better choices and thinking things through a little bit better. But maybe we as adults need to hand out recognition and opportunities a little more frequently as well. What if we didn't just call teenagers out when they blew it? What if we just as often called them out when we saw them do the right thing or make the right choice. What if we put them in more situations where their compassion for those on the fringe of society could be demonstrated more easily? What if stopped assuming that they probably wouldn't care about serving those in need or cleaning up or giving back?
Let me end by saying, "Thanks". Thanks to those 126 students in that picture who helped restore my hope in the future generation.
Remember the bumpers in the bowling lanes when you were little? The new ones are cool but remember the old school bumpers, the long black corrugated tubes that the lane attendant would drag out from the back? Those were awesome. Bumper lanes are awesome because it didn't matter how you threw the ball because it always hit the mark. No skill required. No experience necessary. You couldn't even intentionally throw the ball outside of the bumpers, no matter what, the bumpers always force the ball back into the lane. Awesome right?
When I have the privilege of officiating weddings I always take the opportunity to meet with the young couples to talk about what I like to call, "Things you'll eventually argue about anyway." While I'm not a big bowler (with the exception of my family's Thanksgiving tradition) somewhere along the line I picked up a bowling analogy for successful marriages.
I tell couples that they need to develop marriage bumpers into their lives. Inevitably, couples will argue. Sometimes husbands and wives fight, they disagree, the don't see eye to eye and sometimes it's good for the husband to get out of the house to spend some time with some buddies or for the wife to get away to just be with "the girls". Of course there are rare occasions when couples never argue, never disagree, and never need a few minutes in their respective corners. However for the average couple, you may find yourself needing some time to just debrief.
Here's where the bumpers come in. Much like the bumpers in a bowling lane, the bumpers in real life need to allow us to bump up against them but then push us back to the middle of the lane. Too often we surround ourselves with people that do not value our marriage. These people are easily identifiable when you hear comments like:
-You don't need to put up with that, you should leave him.
-She's so controlling, she doesn't get you.
-You need to forget about them, let's go out and have some real fun.
When you surround yourself with people that do not value the sanctity of marriage, you will find it all the more difficult to return home to that marriage. What we need instead are people that will allow us to "bump" up against them but will then force us back home. People that will listen to your frustrations but then tell you to go back. Finding people who value traditional marriage is tough to begin with, finding people who value your traditional marriage may be even tougher. Who's your bumper?
The end of an era has come to my household. Both of my kids are now finished with elementary school. When we pulled up to the front doors of the historic Glendale Elementary 7 years ago, we had no idea how good she would be to us. The teachers, the staff, the principals, and even the custodial staff were and are amazing. My sons have flourished in an amazing way because of those people.
Over the last 7 years I have come to appreciate each and every member of the Glendale staff from the teachers who poured their lives into my children to the office staff who greeted them each morning. As we ended our elementary school parenting careers on Monday, I began to reflect on the ins and outs of an organization such as an elementary school. Here's a question that I pondered: How is it that hundreds of students and dozens of staff members can come together everyday for 5 days a week for over 9 months without the whole building collapsing in on itself?
Answer: Allow me to introduce two of my favorite people in all of Glendale Elementary: Kevin (on the left) and Don (on the right). Kevin works as head custodian during the day shift and Don works the night custodian shift. While each and every person within an elementary contributes to the whole, Kevin and Don are what make it tick. Set it up, tear it down, clean it up, sweep it up, get it out, put it away, locate it, throw it away, order it, send it back and do it all over again tomorrow. Without Kevin and Don, my kid's elementary school would struggle to survive.
All of this got me thinking about something else as well: Who is it that makes you tick? Who's your behind the scenes person? Who takes care of all of your details so that you can get on with the fun stuff? Philippians 2:4 says, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." I think sometimes we forget to appreciate the helpers who surround us? Sometimes we become so consumed with our own needs and desires that these important people go unnoticed and more importantly, unthanked. Look up, look around, find these people and say, "Thanks".