Scary Answers

I teach a class called “Imagination” as part of the core curriculum for Entrepreneurship at OSU.  The OKSU OSU.  I teach and assign projects in an “Open Ended” manner, on purpose.  Even when I explain, “If I tell you how to do a journal entry, and what topics to cover, I would not have seen the 20+ formats I have seen work creatively for  so many students.”

Three students will drop the class immediately when we leave the room.

One bright eyed, intent student will ask, “How many words do you want in an entry?”

We have taught students in years of schooling that there is one correct answer, the teacher’s way of doing things, and no matter what the teacher says, she is absolutely looking for one answer in the discussion.  She will smile through all the other answers, but she ends the discussion when we arrive at the right answer.

In creativity, and in innovation, we can find hundreds of answers, and all might work. — with work.

Christianity seems similar.  Many people accept that we are a mess, in need of saving, and God did this elaborate, astonishing thing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we only have to accept.  One answer.  Does not demand too much to accept.

Craig Groeschel preached this morning in his Selfless series.  He described how to see God in the moment (even in the grind) and develop new answers, new growth, see the tough things through to the end.

Crickets.  Twenty people applaud, and the rest sit in super quiet mode, eyes a little glazed over.  Millions of correct answers — with work.  Too much for some people.

The on”oanswer fits all” is a great way to build audiences, to increase church attendance.  The millions of possible answers, the kind we must work out not knowing if we are right, trusting through the falling on your face times, and trusting God is guiding — builds Christ followers.

Graduate from the answers Someone else constructed, so you only have to answer “I accept” or “I am afraid” to the answers that mutate, grow, stretch us, slap us into next week, and force us to depend on God to follow God.

It is scarier, more demanding, and full of pitfalls, like all good adventures.

Urgency

I learned urgency where I think a lot of us did: in first grade.  I did not learn it in Kindergarten, because everything was measured and it was less than a half day and if you you were half way clever, no one even suspected that you ever went to the bathroom or restroom.  Really?  People were taking naps in there?

I learned urgency when seated in my little chair either paying attention to Mrs. Criswell or watching Billy Wiebold and Jim Holder eat paste; and my body would remind me.  I had needs.  I could feel a slight pressure that served to reassure me this was not going away.  It was only going to get worse.

And adults seemed clueless that this was fraught with peril.  Even when you don’t have to raise your hand and ask (Mrs. Criswell was forward thinking there), even when all you had to do was get up and go there was peril.  You see, getting up to go meant that every one knew.  I mean, every one was getting pretty worldly, so we all knew each other went to the restroom, and maybe resting came after, but they did not know I was going right then.

It paralyzed Kay.  Sitting there in enough petticoats to be in a movie with that unmistakable trickle running off the wood and steel chair onto linoleum, and the tears forming.  We all knew, then for sure. Maybe she forgot about that before she died or got married.

Anyway, one could sit there feeling a growing sense of urgency, while at the same time exploring ways to ignore it and hope it went away.  Possiblilities abounded, lunch could come two hours early, recess could be declared completely at random, or nuclear war drill would put everyone else under their desks and you blithely slippped in and out — unnoticed.

It’s funny, is it not?  We learn both urgency and ways to make it go away simultaneously, like countries, like churches, like global warming.

I learned Adult urgency from John Edmund Haggai.  Like any evangelist he had a great Thursday night sermon on the urgency of reaching the world for Christ.  Unlike all the rest, he also built an institute in a Third World locale, staffed with brilliant Third World faculty and leaders, and ways to get them trained and back into leadership positions in countries Baptists had no hope of reaching.

And here is the other wild thing about true urgency: it is not, like in the first grade, dependent on how we feel about it. It simply is.  Urgency is not a factor of age – I must do something about this before I die – or feeling.  It simply is.

John built the Haggai Institute when he was young.  You heard he was passionate about it, but it went far, far beyond how he felt about it…and millions of lives have been changed.

In the same way, it does not matter how I feel about climate change.  The world is hurting, species and habitats are vanishing, Christians believe they have been given dominion over the thing, so they should be the first, the most devout ecologists.

Quit sitting in your chair, jiggling your leg trying to figure a way to make this go away.  Get up, act on your urgency.  People are dying.  The world is suffering.

Sic ‘em.  Gotta go now.

To Mrs. Scott

Jill and I moved to Miami to be youth minister at University Baptist Church in Coral Gables.  The kittens learned to respect the iguanas in the trees.  The electric company came to cut back the ficus from the electric lines every nine months.  The services were translated into Spanish and Patois and our staff reflected that composition, and Mrs. Scott was one of my Sunday School teachers.

Her first name was Mrs.  for all of her students, and that went for me as well.  The dress and address were both regal. Formal but not stuffy or priggish or feigned. She had a ready smile and cool wit, and she and Mr. Scott were that evanescence we know as Jamaican. Coping with challenges in life was built-in, and even when the laugh lines around the eyes were getting a work out from a good life, she somehow conveyed that gravitas, which communicated she chose to laugh, chose to believe, even after having seen life.

Mrs. Scott’s children were reserved and brilliant.  Except for Jonathan who was one part ADHD before we knew the term, one part Robin Williams, two parts anywhere from the BeeGees to Hank Williams to Madonna, one part Billy Graham, and all of it kindled such that he appeared to have his hair on fire, even when calmly talking to you face-to-face.

Many, many a girl measured this Scott, and not a few took his measure with great hope, but there was a girl name of Kathleen, and if she chased him it was with a stunning shyness that entwined him and drew him to her.  Effortlessly.

When Jill and I left Coral Gables, I left the youth ministry in Jonathan’s and Wes’ hands, and expected the announcement of their marriage, and were devastated at the news of her MS.  Devastated alongside an entire church reeling with a second pastor’s wife with the dread prognosis.

Could Jonathan have had a larger music career if he had travelled more?  Undoubtedly. Could he have had a larger speaking career if he had spent more time on the road?  Assuredly.  But with the rock-solid resolution of the first Mrs. Scott, Jonathan stayed close to the second Mrs. Scott until last week.

She is Home, now.

Sigourney Weaver made a choice a few decades back.  She was looking at her mantle and wondered if she would want more Oscars on there or pictures of the grandkids.  She stayed home for the kids and grandkids.

Jonathan’s and Kathleen’s kids will be able to put the pictures of their parents together on their mantles and say the mystical, magical incantation with just that Jamaican lilt,  “And she loved him with her dying breath, and he no less.”