You don't need a license to drive

The artist known as Prince just died. It's all over the news and his music is basically on every station. While not necessarily a fan of Prince - I have never owned nor downloaded any of his music - I do have a deep appreciation for the artist that he was. I'm not ashamed to admit that last night in the car is was jamming to "Little Red Corvette" and "Let's Go Crazy" when it came on the radio. When you hear brilliance, you must stop to appreciate it.

Another no-as-famous person died yesterday as well. Chyna, of WWE fame, passed away, leaving behind a legacy for female wrestlers that she pretty much started on her own. Back in the day, I used to watch wrestling when it wasn't the trashy show that it is now. Chyna was just coming on the scene then and, while I didn't always buy the theatrics, I did appreciate the fact that a woman could body slam a man and make him look silly. When someone busts boundaries wide open, you have to stop and admire, even if it's an arena (pardon the pun) that you don't necessarily like.

Why do so many people react almost viscerally when those who are loaded with talent and vision are gone from our presence seemingly too soon? I believe it's because these people leave a void in our lives that we don't believe can be adequately filled by someone else. While the movers and the shakers of this world have feelings and often deal with the same struggles as you and me, they also have something that makes them stand out - drive.

Drive is what you call initiative on steroids. It's what keeps you up at night thinking about how tomorrow is going to be better today. Drive won't necessarily give you better grades on your tests, a cooler car, or a nicer house, but it will allow you to push boundaries that many will think impossible to eclipse.

As a society, we adore and sometimes detest people with drive. But we also tend to do something else that is rather self-deprecating. As hold these people in higher esteem, at the same time we believe that there is no way we could ever achieve the same kinds of success that they did. That had IT and we don't, or so we convince ourselves. When we see ourselves that way, we automatically limit ourselves and preapprove mediocrity as a way of life.

Don't get me wrong - there are people out there who have achieved much more than you and I could ever do, whether it be because of the financial backing that they have, freakish athletic ability, or a brain that is wired for superior smarts. Yet drive is not limited to those with "elite" skills. Drive is something that we all have within us, we just have to be unafraid to release the horses and let them run.

Ask yourself this: What is your passion? You know, what is the one thing that, if you could do it, you would want to invest all of your energy and time in for as long as you could? Your passion is what drives you, and for many we have allowed life's circumstances to dictate where we can and cannot allow our drive to take us. Some of that is beyond our control, yet more often than not we limit ourselves.

Jesus had drive. It was to seek and save the lost, drawing all men and women to His Father, God. The apostle Paul had drive. His was to proclaim the good news of Jesus across the Asian continent, planting churches all along the way. You, too, have a drive that God has put into your heart. It may not make you into a famous musician or professional wrestler, but once you allow that drive out of the barn you can be assured that God will use it to change the world around you.

Compassion is more than just a fancy word

Compassion. This is a word that is not foreign to any of us. We know what it means, or at least we think we know what it means. The word compassion comes from the Latin word compati which means "to suffer with." This means that if you have compassion on someone, then you are there suffering with them. Not from a distance or by throwing money at a cause, but right there with them. This makes compassion personal, real, difficult at times.

As I write this my oldest daughter is in the hospital in Winston-Salem getting treatment for a pretty nasty flare up of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). As I've watched her struggle through pain this weekend, it's been necessary to muster all the compassion that I can for her. Not because I don't care, but rather because I personally don't have JRA and I often don't know how to suffer with her. Yes, I can show sympathy and tell her that I care, but compassion is more than that. It's intensely personal.

Simply put, compassion is more than words. It's a coming alongside of someone and connecting with them through ugly situations in their life. It's getting dirty and not worrying about how bad the stains you receive are going to be and if they will wash out. Compassion has more to do with being unable to go any further until you've done all that you can do to meet a need. It stops you in your tracks and won't allow you to look the other way.

In Matthew 14, Jesus had compassion on a large crowd that had gathered to hear Him preach. His concern for these men and women was that they had been there with Him all day in a desolate place where there was no food for them to eat. It wasn't like they could call Domino's and order a pizza. Jesus' disciples saw what was happening and suggested that He send the people away to their own homes so that they could grab a bite to eat before it got too late, but Jesus had other things in mind. To Jesus, compassion meant owning the suffering of others, not merely offering a solution. Instead of giving this crowd good advice, He gave them something to eat. In that moment, He fed over 5,000 people with only two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus could have sent them home. Instead, He gave all that He could give.

Look around you. How many needs do you see on a daily basis? Have you ever thought, "Man, I hope those people get the help they need"? Or maybe you've said something like, "I'm praying for you and I'm here if you need me." None of these things are inherently wrong, but they also aren't compassion unless we do what we can to meet those needs.

Compassion could be quitting your job and relocating to a low income neighborhood to run an after school center for troubled kids. Compassion might be sitting for hours with a grieving friend as they mourn the loss of loved one, crying with them and listening to their pain. Compassion is pulling alongside a student whose parents don't invest in him and giving him guidance and encouragement so that he can believe in himself and succeed. And compassion is what keeps you up at night, unable to sleep until you have figured out a way to meet the financial need of a neighbor who just lost her job.

But how much can I really do? I mean, I don't have much money to give and I've got a family of my own to care for! Those are honest concerns, yet compassion goes beyond them because compassion doesn't merely ask what can I do, but rather compassion asks, "What am I WILLING to do?" It's not how much you give but rather your willingness to give in the first place.

Don't sing it, bring it!

Several years ago I became the new youth pastor at a church in Yadkinville, NC. In case you've never heard of Yadkinville or you have no idea how to pronounce it, the "d" is silent and the "i" is more like a hard "u", so it's pronounced "Ya-kun-vull" by those who really know who to speak Yadkin-ese, the local dialect there. Anyhow, the students there were all awesome and a little on the country side, which was cool because it challenged me to be a little less "city" and uptight about certain things.

Early on in my time of service there, I realized that I had a group of guys that were gifted at talking junk. You know, the kind where you playfully goad other people verbally to engage in physical challenges, all the while strutting like a peacock and "bowing up" to them. If you don't understand, then you have to accept that it's a guy thing and it's just what we do at times.

There was one kid in the group who was small for his age, but he made up for it with his vocal abilities. And boy, was he country. When he spoke, you could almost see the syrup dripping from the air. His one liners were classic as well - he would threaten to "Put a knot on the side of your head so big a calf could suck on it!" or "Knock your teeth so far down your throat you've got to drop your breeches to chew your food!" This kid was funny with his junk talking, but also a bit annoying at times because he just never seemed to stop. I loved him anyway. Most of the time.

One of this young man's favorite sayings, however, was in response to junk talk that other people delivered to him. If I ever called his bluff or threatened to hang him out of the window by his toes - not that I ever did threaten to do that, necessarily - he would come back with this line: "Don't sing it, bring it!" In other words, put your money where your mouth is. Funny how he never backed up his bravado but, then again, he was all bark and no bite himself.

Don't sing it, bring it! This is a call to action to stop talking and start doing. It's easy to talk about all sorts of things that you are going to do in your life - do better in school, make necessary lifestyle changes, be a more committed spouse, make more of a difference in this world for Jesus - but when it actually comes down to fulfilling those words, well, that's when it gets hard. It's easy to say it, yet much harder to do it. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Think about politicians. Okay, don't think about them if you can, but that's gonna be hard because that's all we see and hear on the news today. Where was I? Oh yeah, politicians. They are the masters at saying whatever it is that they think you want to hear just so that they can win your vote, and then when they take office they are notorious for not delivering on their promises. They know how to sing it but not bring it.

The same is true of many of us who are followers of Jesus. Have you ever read something in the Bible or been given a challenge in a message that truly stirred your heart and you committed right then and there to live out that truth, only to fizzle out later in the day? I have. Or how many times have you lifted your voice in worship to an amazing God who you had no trouble praising with your lips yet never could seem to glorify with your actions? Been there, done that.

Why is it so hard to back up the words that we say? It might be because we overestimate our own abilities while at the same time underestimating the power and nature of God. You see, our God is a God of action, not merely words. When He proclaimed something in the Bible, it was always because He was about to act. There was no doubt that when He said it, those things would happen.

James knew this about God and he also knew that we were weak in the area of faithfully doing what we said we were going to do. Look at what he so skillfully writes in James 2:14-27
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Do you see what James is saying? If we say it but don't do it, then our faith is essentially useless. It's dead. That puts most of us in a bit of a pickle, because we've said and committed to certain things for God in our faith that in the end we've failed to actually do. And when we "sing it but don't bring it" for God, then it affects not just our relationship with Him, but our relationships with others suffer as well because they miss out on the work that God wants to do through us for their benefit.

Since it's almost election season, I vote that we commit to be people of action and not merely words. If you don't think you can follow through, then don't say that you'll do it. But if you do lift up your voice to the Lord in praise, or have your heart stirred by the Holy Spirit to make changes in your life, or you believe that you are being compelled to live that life on mission that God has called you to, then don't sit on that. Do it.

Acknowledge that a living faith is one that is backed up by action. Change your ways. Repent of the inaction of your past. And do what you know you should do for the glory of God. Bring it, don't just sing it. 

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