Monday, July 19, 2010


Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to do? When’s the last time you felt stuck? Consider what this man from China did in a sticky situation.

All Xiao Chen wanted to do was go for a swim. Thinking it’d be fun, the 25-year-old Chinese man headed toward what he thought was the river. As it turns out, it was just silt, and it wasn’t long before he found himself waist-deep in mud, and sinking! Now most people with their life on the line would’ve used their mobile phones to call for help. Chen, despite having a phone, was too embarrassed to call for help.

After struggling to free himself for four hours, Chen finally gave up and asked two passing fishermen for help. They called the fire department, who then spent another SEVEN hours trying to drag the man to safety! The situation would’ve been easier had Chen just taken off his pants, but he was too embarrassed to even do that! Even after firefighters stripped down to their undies, Chen’s modesty prevented him from doing the same, even though it would’ve probably allowed him to escape before 12 hours had passed. (

I want to chuckle at Chen’s stubbornness but I risk hearing from my family that I’m just like him. A few years ago, my son and I got caught in some high waves in Lake Superior. We had been exploring cave formations at Pictured Rocks when the winds shifted and the waves grew larger. For 45 minutes, we fought the waves and winds on flimsy blow-up rafts to work our way around a rock formation and back to shore. Though we were never in real danger, we finished our journey incredibly fatigued and very agitated. You see, our battle didn’t have to be that long. Within eye shot, we there were boats constantly coming near us; kayaks, pontoons and fishing boats. As we paddled furiously through waves, my son would ask me to call out for one of the boats but I insisted that we’d make it. Anyone of them would have helped us… if I would have cried out for help.

One of the hardest things for people to do in a desperate circumstance is to ask for help. Somewhere, we’ve cultivated this notion that it’s better for us just do it on our own. Asking for help requires humility because it’s an admission that we cannot do something without help. We are putting the outcome of our circumstance in the hands of someone else. Humility requires reliance which in turn, requires trust in the person from whom we’ve sought help.

What do you do when you're stuck? Is asking for help something you need to do this week?

Monday, July 12, 2010


There’s a word that no baseball player wants to hear in relationship to his name. It’s the word “slump.” A slump in baseball can be defined as when a player’s batting average takes a dive over a significant period of time. He simply can’t get a hit. Even when he hits it hard, the ball is caught. Listen to what former major leaguers said about slumps. Bob Uecker said, “I had slumps that lasted into the winter.” Casey Stengel remarked about a team slump, “We are in such a slump that even the ones that aren’t drinkin’ aren’t hittin’.” Yogi Beara quipped, “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.”

For the last 10 years, I’ve spent my spring evenings coaching baseball. When I first started coaching, the kids on my teams were 7 year olds. Now, I’m coaching players at the varsity level. Some will be leaving for college next year. One thing I’ve realized is the older a player gets, the more we seem to be coaching the mental and emotional side of the game. Hitting a baseball can be a streaky thing and a slump can really mess with a young man’s mind. Recently, I’ve watched a couple of very talented young men struggle in slumps. The longer the slump goes, the more pressure they feel. The slump begins to affect other things like their fielding and pitching. It even creeps into their school work and social life. I’ve also noticed that slumps often reflect the athlete’s personality. There’s the depressed slumper who withdraws alone in a corner of the dugout after a strike out. There’s the angry slumper who will throw helmets and kick bases. There’s the blaming slumper who accuses the weather, umpires, coaches, and girlfriends for their struggles. And then there’s the joking slumper who uses self-deprecating humor to deal with hitting issues. Slumps can be very emotional and the only way out of one is to keep coming to practice and to simply hit the baseball.

As a pastor, I’ve also seen people go into spiritual slumps. This happens to good people who have passionately followed God with their lives but for some reason they’ve drifted off their game. Their walk with God has run dry and become ineffective. Their spiritual disciplines become hard and mechanical. I’ve had people tell me, “I’m just not experiencing God’s presence in my life right now. God seems distant.” Or, “My Bible reading seems dull and my prayers seem to hit the ceiling.” Others have said, “There’s a sin pattern in my life I just can’t shake and it’s affecting my relationships with God and the people in my life.” We can all go through spiritually dry periods in our lives that are hard to break from. These can be caused by fatigue, stress, sin, lack of discipline, compromise, or just a time of testing. But God wants us to be hitters. He wants us to break out of our slump.

If you are in a spiritual slump, you most likely won't get out of it by ourself. Tell someone you trust today about you struggle. Ask for help and encouragement. Walking with God is a team sport!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Second Half

One of my favorite authors over the past few years has been Gordon McDonald. McDonald has been a pastor for many years and his insights into life in ministry have been very encouraging to me. Several years ago, I had the chance to attend an all-day seminar taught by McDonald. If I recall, the overall message of the day was, doing your best work in the second half of your life. Gordon was in his mid-60s at the time and he was on quest to finish his life well. He believed that in his 60s, 70s and 80s, he should be well-read, street smart and at the height of wisdom. He believed he had the most to offer in this stage of his life. Unfortunately, he also believed that most people in his demographic didn’t believe this. He told a story that day has stuck with me.

One day, Gordon decided to take out a legal pad and make a list of all the guys he knew that were older than him. As he did this his wife came up behind and asked him what he was up to. Gordon explained, “I’m making a list of all the old guys I know.” “Umm… why, Gordon,” she asked. “I want to know how many older men in my life that I actually like. I want to know who I am becoming.” “So, how's it going?” she inquired. “Terrible,” he said as panned his full page of names, “I don’t like any of these guys. They are all either grumpy, set in their ways or have given up.”

From this exercise, Gordon began his book, “The Resilient Life,” a brilliant writing on the second half of your life being your most productive to the Kingdom of God. Gordon identifies the critical questions people tend to ask in each adult decade of their life. Remarkably, these questions show how hard it is to finish well.

20’s: What kind of man or woman am I becoming? How am I different than my parents?
30’s: How do I prioritize the demands of life? How far can I go in fulfilling my sense of purpose?
40s: Why are others doing better than me? Why are my limitations outweighing my options?
50s: Why is my body becoming unreliable? How do I deal with failures and successes?
60s: Why do I feel ignored by those younger than me? Why am I curious about obituaries?
70’s - 80s: Does anyone realize or care who I once was? Is my story important to anyone? How much of my life can I still control? Can I still contribute?

There so many things that oppose our pursuit of productive second half of life. Failing body, changing culture, a competitive younger generation, failures of the past, discouragement and disillusionment. But, McDonald’s premise remains true to me. I want the last half of my life to show my best work. If I grow in my walk with God, through every decade of life, I should have the more to offer a broken world the older I get, despite the physical limitations and past pain I’ve experienced.

Think about the stage of life you are in? What positive steps are you taking today that will impact who you will become 20 years from now?