Busted Brackets

I did my civic duty tonight. No, I didn’t vote. I filled out my NCAA basketball tournament brackets (nine in all).

Some of them I played straight. I picked all the #1 seeds to win. On some others, I just went plain crazy. I picked just about every game to be an upset.

It hit me as I was filling in these brackets. As you know, no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Ever.

There have been a few #15 seeds upset the #2 seeds and a few more #14 seeds pull a shocker over their 3 seed counterpart, but no 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams back in the 80’s.

What hit me was this: what God did for me in saving me was the equivalent of a #16 seed winning the whole enchilada. Or if you will, the 64th best team (think Austin Peay) winning the national championship.

I’m definitely not saying that God’s the underdog in this story. I am. On my own, I had absolutely no shot of making it out of the first round. I was the equivalent of a team of corpses.

But God made me alive in Christ. He raised me up with supernatural power. in Jesus, I have become more than a conqueror. My salvation story is akin to that Austin Peay team reaching the finals and beating those mighty Kansas Jayhawks in the national championship game.

A pipe dream? Maybe. But I know that in God what seems impossible to me and you is possible for God. In fact, it’s not even remotely difficult for God (thanks again to Pete Wilson for that one).

I have a feeling that most of my brackets will be busted and broken by the Sweet Sixteen. I know that spiritually speaking, my life in God will never ever be busted and broken because I serve a God who knows the way out of hell and the grave.

The end.

 

Every Little Thing Matters

“Lord, when I feel that what I’m doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it” (Brennan ManningSouvenirs of Solitude: Finding Rest in Abba’s Embrace).

That’s it.

As Mother Teresa once said, there are no great acts, but rather only small acts done with great love.

To put it another way, when done out of the right spirit, out of a genuine and abiding love for Jesus, everything you do and say can become an act of worship. Even cleaning toilets or scrubbing floors. All those menial tasks that don’t have much inherent value can be living prayers if they’re done as an offering to Jesus.

That makes all the difference in drudgery and delight, between surviving and thriving.

Maybe you’re not exactly in the high-profile career you thought you’d be in by now. Maybe you’re not pulling down the big bucks.

Then again maybe your job is to make a difference in the lives of those people in your office. Maybe your best gift is to be quite possibly the only positive light to someone who otherwise only exists in darkness.

Maybe you don’t have to go to seminary and get ordained to have a ministry. Maybe your ministry is you showing up every single day and giving your absolute very best for eight hours.

Maybe if you’re faithful in the little things over time, God will entrust you with bigger things down the road.

Or maybe you’ll get to the end of your life and realize that all those little things done with great love really were the big things after all.

 

Here’s the Deal

So I found out today that the cost to repair the transmission on my Jeep is $2700. I almost needed the smelling salts as I typed that sentence. I’ll be sans car for up to four weeks. Pass those smelling salts, please.

That’s a lot of money. All for some itty bitty parts that decided on their own without consulting me or anyone else to stop working. All for some unseen mechanical gears that I didn’t even know existed until they decided to break down. Rude.

A lot of life is like that. Things break, people die, situations change. What seemed like a sure thing vanishes like the morning mist and what you thought would last forever ends abruptly without any warning.

It’s easy to let those things make you cynical, believing that only the very worst scenarios will play out and that nothing good can ever happen and that people are only out to get you.

Or it drives you deeper into all the Mystery that is the Abba Father.

As big as my car bill is, God is bigger.

As big as the void that is left by the passing of a loved one is, God is bigger.

As big as the hurt caused by the rejection of a friend or a family member, God is bigger.

As big as the accumulation of scars and wounds from a broken relationship are, God is bigger.

God is bigger than anything you will face today or tomorrow or the next day or any day after that.

God is bigger than any problem that you will ever face.

God is bigger than your fears and your doubts and even your unbelief.

Whatever circumstances, God will prove that He is enough. Everything you could possibly desire or want or hold in your hands without God is less than holding onto nothing but God.

That’s a lesson that all of us learn eventually, whether that means losing everything in a literal sense or in coming to the end of your own schemes and plans.

God is enough. God will be enough.

That is enough.

 

Brokenness and Community

We are all broken. Some are just better at hiding it than others, but deep down inside we know we don’t work right. I believe when God reveals our brokenness within the context of community, we have two choices. I can see your brokenness and choose to walk away and shut you out or I can choose to walk with you and share your burdens, “and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Ephesians 6:2). I’m not saying it’s wrong to walk away; some are not ready to handle brokenness in others. But to stay and walk with a brother or sister through brokenness is the better way.

I also think about the image of Jesus breaking bread and blessing it. If we want God to bless us, or better yet to bless others through us, we must first be broken. Only in the context of community where we love each other and share joys and sorrows and bear each other’s burdens can this happen. We shouldn’t just pray for blessings on each other. We should be able to pray for brokenness for each other. We should be authentic and transparent enough to be broken and honest with each other.

I am reminded of Henri Nouwen’s term “wounded healer.” If we aren’t broken, we can never reach beyond the surface in our relationships and serving and ministry, but if we are broken, we can empathize with the weaknesses of others. The more we own our brokenness, the more loving and Christlike we will be toward the brokenness in others.

I want to buck the trend that says that weakness is something you don’t talk about. I want to be like Paul who boasted in his weakness, because that’s where Christ’s strength is perfected. Let people see that you are not a perfect saint, but a weak and broken and transparent vessel through which God’s love can pour unhindered to the world around you.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.