Monday, January 31, 2011

Redeeming Wide Right

Wide Right
Hard to believe it's been twenty years since Scott Norwood's fateful kick on a tense January night in Tampa. On that night a 7 year old boy in Orchard Park, NY watched and prayed that a field goal with 8 seconds remaining would win Super Bowl 25 for the team he loved. Instead, the kick sailed wide right, the Bills lost 20-19, and an entire town, along with the little boy, had dreams crushed.

Dramatic? Ya. Why should such an event trigger such pain? I mean, it's just a game! Even on that night a clear perspective was offered. January 27th 1991 was the middle of Desert Storm. The pregame was complete with flyovers of both F-16's and Apaches. Fans who were divided in team loyalty were united in patriotism, waving American flags as Whitney Houston delivered such a powerful Star-Spangled banner that players, coaches, fans, and even referees were brought to tears. A remarkable scene for a sporting event - and it was stark reminder that there are more important things in the world... why then, when traveling on I-20 in Georgia between Atlanta and Augusta do I still get fresh pangs of defeat when I pass exit 160 for the town of Norwood, GA? Welcome to the psychosis not only of a town, but of me.

I've had an inferiority complex for years. I first recognized it in college, and there I first connected it to watching a sports team get sooo close, four times in a row in fact, on to fail at the moment of triumph. Not that I blame a football team for a struggle with self doubt, but it is great description of how I feel at times when I am at my worst.

During this 20th anniversary of the trauma, it has been healing to read how the players have dealt with the "what-ifs" and questions - how they have moved on - and how they are finding perspective while doing amazing work building communities both in the States and in developing nations. (see article here:

One thing that always gets me is how the entire Buffalo region seems to suffer from the 2nd place mindset. Reading of how much the players loved the city, loved the team, and loved the people somehow offers a balm to the wounds. They weren't just millionnaires passing through...they didn't just leave a town to wallow...they loved this place too. they rejoiced when it rejoiced and mourned when it mourned. I can't say it better than that, but to know they cared somehow helps..., and I'm still talking about a football game! Why does sports do this to those who allow it? What idolatry have I committed by so turning my heart over to the god of "glory for my team?" My head realizes the irrationality - but my heart still has some catching up to do at times.

To help me see the foolishness of it all I imagine how I might be different if they had won just once. Would I be more confident today? Let's say I was. So in the one case I feel inferior because of a football team and the other other I feel confident because of a football team! And that, my friends, is idolatry - basing self-worth on something other than what my Father in heaven thinks of me.

The True Self
What does He think of me:

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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.
Rom. 8:15-17

Or do you not know that your body is a 1temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price...
1Cor. 6:19-20

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Eph. 2:8-10

I am a redeemed child of God, bought at a price, and His workmanship intended for a good purpose. Allright heart - my head gets all this - now catch up! Be turned from stone to flesh...

Scripture is a great ally - but unless we act on it what's the point? We are called to be not just hearers, but "doers" of what we read (James 1:22).

So here is are some thoughts for all those in Buffalo, Cleveland, heck, the Netherlands...wherever there are those suffering from a 2nd place inferiority complex.
  1. Face the Pain. What does this look like? it's different for everyone. For me, one small thing is that Virginia and I pray for confidence whenever we pass exit 160. Leverage the source of anxiety for good. What is it for you?
  2. Repent. Giving your heart to football team - or anything other than your true image - is idolatry. Turn back to the loving Father who is waiting heal our inferiority with mercy, grace, and a new identity - a child of God.
  3. Pray. Pray for what? Not for field goals! Pray that our hearts would be broken by things worth having a broken heart for. We are given grace that we may do good works. God loves broken people - he loves them because in this state He can heal them in His image. Being broken does not mean being 2nd place though - that is being sick. All the injustices and hurts in the world will not be addressed by a people wallowing in an idolatrous inferiority complex. We must pray that our hearts would be broken by that which breaks god's heart.
What is it for you? You've gotten a glimpse into my heart...and it's almost a little embarrassing. But it feels good to talk about it. So what hurt do you carry that you would like to see redeemed? God is in the business of working all things for good...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Catalyst 19: Gabe Lyons

From 1/28/07

This was a great interview with Gabe, founder of Catalyst and former host of the podcast. Gabe Lyons is passionate about reclaiming not just the counter-cultural identity of the church, but a culture creating one as well. Like many other discontented next generation Christians, Lyons sees the contemporary Western church as defined by their critique, condemnation, and copying of culture through the past century. While he agrees that there is a time and a place for these actions, the church has largely missed the vital role of "creating." And since we are created in the image of a creator God, creating should be in our nature...

To promote this vision, Lyons has founded a movement called "Q Ideas." For those familiar, the best I can relate it to is that Q Ideas is the Progressive Christian equivalent of TED talks. I can't recommend the website enough for any number of people: if your a Christian leader, if you're a Christian discontented with Western pop-Christianity, if you're passionate of seeing both the proclaimed and social Gospel of justice held in beautiful tension, if you're seeking to learn more about the Christian faith but are turned off by billboards and "big hair channels," in you have any position of leadership in your church - you won't want to miss the essays, blog posts, and videos. Please do you and your community a service by checking this out and sharing it! I have and it's provoked some challenging thoughts...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Beginnings

Though we are still in a state of transition, home is now Atlanta. We will miss the friends and house we leave behind in Augusta - I can't believe I spent over 4 years there (6 for Virginia)! I haven't written for a while but now that we have graduated, moved, and somewhat settled, I expect to be back at it. In the meantime, here's a passage from Jeremiah that is our meditation and prayer for this transition...

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:4-7

For us, this passage is all about laying down roots. A generation raised on instant gratification isn't too keen to take the time for this sort of thing but there are countless examples of the blessings the arise from doing so. We're excited to learn our part in living this out in Atlanta. How cool that this is the type of community involvement that God intends?!

Happy New Year!


Dave, Virginia, and Hannah
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