Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kudzu

What if our faith was growing like kudzu?  For people not from the Deep South, kudzu is a vine that was first introduced to North America in 1876 to celebrate our nation’s 100 year anniversary.   If you’ve ever been to my home state Georgia, kudzu has overtaken the landscape.  The earliest farmers tried to feed the vine to their livestock, but the vine grew too fast.  Other landowners planted it to prevent erosion.  It was not until 1972 that kudzu was declared a weed.  During the hot summer months the vine can grow up to a foot a day and can grow over 60 feet a year. Now the weed has overtaken 7.5 million acres.

For perspective, the combined size New Jersey and Connecticut is roughly 8 million acres.

Not only does this vine grow incredibly fast, it has proved more difficult to kill.  It can cost thousands of dollars to kill the plant.  We have now discovered, the most effective way to clear kudzu is to unleash a pack of wild goats or sheep.  However, most people try to kill kudzu by completely mowing the weed to the ground during the summer months.  Then the entire plant most be throw into a fire and burned. 

One summer Billy Reilly and I were hired to remove three acres of kudzu.  Billy being an expert landscaper, told the home owner we could complete the whole job for $1000.  On day number one, Billy went to pee in the creek and fell in.  Why didn’t he use the restroom inside?  I am not sure how it happened, but we needed to drive back to his mother's house so he could change.  One small problem Billy threw his car keys in the grass and managed to run them over with the lawn mower.  When we found them they looked like a gnarled monkey paw.  We were twenty years old and we had to call his mother come pick us up so Jimmy could change clothes. 

On the second day, he is using the weed wacker next to the house and somehow managed to break a basement window.  Instead of telling the homeowner, he decides to grab some duct tape out of his car and tape the pieces of glass back to the window.  Really?  Then a few minutes later he attacks the cable tv because he thinks it’s a snake.  A snake?

On the third and final day, Billy tries to start a fire to burn the kudzu.  However, it was raining and we didn’t have any dry wood so Billy starts using lawnmower gas to get the fire started.  I remember saying to him, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”  He turns around and says, “Andy I am trained professional.  I know what I am doing.”  In the next instant, the gas can catches fire and he tosses the flaming can into the woods.  I grabbed a rake and began beating out the fire.  Billy grabbed the water hose and ran toward the fire, but as he was running he quickly realized the hose was too short.  When he reached the end of the hose, he looked like he was connected to a bungee cord.  That hose snatched him back 10 feet.  He was laying on the ground. I am still beating on the fire with a melting rake and the fire is burning out of control.  Now Billy runs into the house to get a bucket of water and call 911.  He comes running towards the fire and tries to throw the bucket of water, but it swings back around and he is soaked with water.  Then he gets the bright idea to get water from of the creek.  Somehow he manages to fall into the creek again.  I am still viciously trying to protect the neighbors house at this point.  Billy has given up and goes and gets a pack of cigarettes and I promise this part is true, he lights a cigarette off the fire and sits down on his lawnmower to wait for the fire department. 

Finally, the calvary arrive and they make me run hoses with them as Billy directs the firefighters.  After we put out the fire, the fire chief said, “How did this fire start?”  Billy replies, “I started pouring gas on the fire.”  Incredulous the chief says, “You never pour gasoline on a fire.”

After it was all said and down, Billy and I burned two acres of kudzu.  With great ambition, which I still admire, he approached the homeowner and said, “Well good thing that fire burned down most of the kudzu.  What time would you like us to come finish up tomorrow?”  The shocked woman handed us a check for $1000 and politely asked us to never return.


What if our faith was as difficult to destroy as kudzu?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I am

I am a Christian, husband, father, Ninja Warrior, comedian, snowboarder, Young Life leader, best friend, story teller, ordained PC-USA minister, mountain biker, brother, triathlete, Doctoral student, writer, handy man, performer, American Gladiator, mentor, thrill seeker, and most days I am exhausted.

My Point: I am!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What do you need?

One of the most embarrassing moments of my life happened my senior year of high school.  Let me set the scene: My parents were out of town, I was staying with my friend Deon, and I had an infected colon. How does your colon get infected? I have no idea, but every meal was a gamble getting to the bathroom.  

My point, I had a hard time controlling my bodily functions.  Before going to Deon's house for the weekend I had several close calls but no accidents.  As to be expected, we went to bed and couple hours later are noses physically drag us out of our sleeping bags.  It was this awful smell. It smelled like someone was cooking tar, rotten vegetables, and skunk in the crockpot.  Then I began to realize the awful smell was coming from my sleeping bag.



Deon kept saying, “Something died in my room.  What is that awful smell.  Andy what did you do?”

With all of the courage I could muster, I looked at Deon… and stuck my lip out… “I couldn’t help it, but I pooped my pants.”

I’m remember jumping in the shower to clean myself up and then running outside and throwing my sleeping bag and clothes into the trash.  

Let my point out, I should have laid down a plastic tarp in the backyard and slept naked.  However, that is not what I did.  Oh no... that would have been the smart thing to do… Instead, I hopped into the guest bed.  A couple hours later, that awful skunk crept back in the room.  I couldn’t believe it, but twice in one night I had been unable to control my bodily functions.  I stripped the sheets, threw them in wash, hopped in the shower, and then threw my clothes in the trash. 

At this point, I should have gone to the grocery store and bought diapers.  However, that is not what I did.  Oh no…I just wrapped myself up in a white sheet and laid down on his mother’s white couch in the den.  Here is a tip, never buy white furniture.  I am sure, you can see where this is headed…That’s right people… I used that white couch like it was one big piece of toilet paper.  Being the good friend that I am.  I threw that sheet in the trash, flipped that couch cushion over (oh you heard that right…I just flipped it over, and then I drove home only wearing a hand towel, because I was too embarrassed to wake Deon. What was I thinking?  I am pretty sure I single handedly ruined the price of his mother’s house.  His poor mother threw up the instant she walked down the stairs.

If that experience wasn’t bad enough.  When I got to school on Monday, Deon had sworn his girlfriend to secrecy.  Unfortunately, she thought this story was too funny not to share.  She needed to tell everyone that I had pooped myself for the entire weekend.  Every class I went in to my friends would say things like, “Don’t poop here.”  Do you need a bag to clean up after yourself.”  Or “Hey Andy my little brother is potty trained, what happened to you?”

Then to make matters worse, the principal called me to his office.  “Andy, I heard some of the kids are making fun of you.  They said you had a couple accidents at Deon’s house.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Sure, why don’t you just put me on your changing table and change my dirty diaper or how about you enroll me in a potty training class or maybe you just let me walk around naked all day so I won’t poop in my pants.”  

I'm sure y’all can imagine my humiliation.  

What if you had to go through life telling everyone this story.  Yelling at the top of my lungs, I am unclean... unclean.  Get away from me.

The woman we encounter in Mark 5 lived this awful fate.  For twelve years she had been hemorrhaging.  Every time she walked into a public place she would cry out I am unclean.  Please get away from me I am unclean.

Yet she believed if she could just touch Jesus she would be made well.

Every single one of us is unclean and separated from Jesus Christ because of our sin.  What is sin?  Everything in our life that separates us from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  From the beginning of time we were designed to be in a loving relationship with Jesus, yet our sin separates us.  Much like this woman who was bleeding we need Christ to heal us.  We need to reach out and touch Jesus and believe he has the power to make us well.  

Mark 5:25-34 – Bleeding Woman
25 There among the people was a woman who had been bleeding for the past twelve years. 26 She had suffered very much. Many doctors had tried to help her, and all the money she had was spent, but she was not improving. In fact, her sickness was getting worse.
27 The woman heard about Jesus, so she followed him with the other people and touched his coat. 28 She thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, that will be enough to heal me.” 29 As soon as she touched his coat, her bleeding stopped. She felt that her body was healed from all the suffering. 30 Jesus immediately felt power go out from him, so he stopped and turned around. “Who touched my clothes?” he asked.
31 The followers said to Jesus, “There are so many people pushing against you. But you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
32 But Jesus continued looking for the one who touched him. 33 The woman knew that she was healed, so she came and bowed at Jesus’ feet. She was shaking with fear. She told Jesus the whole story. 34 He said to her, “Dear woman, you are made well because you believed. Go in peace. You will not suffer anymore.”

If we do not seek healing for the sin in our life it will ultimately destroy us whether we realize it or not.  Few college football coaches have made a point against the sins in our world as effectively as Erk Russell. He arranged for a couple of good ol'  boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the team. "Everyone screamed and scattered," Russell recalls. "I told them, 'When cocaine comes into a room, you're not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they'll both kill you!"

Do you believe Jesus has the power to free you from your sins? 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jordache and Zaccheus

My mother had several rules when we were children.  However, the one rule almost ruined my life in middle school.  Every six months, we were given forty dollars to buy a brand new pair of shoes.  If we wanted anything more expensive we had to use our own money.  Throughout elementary school I never thought about my shoes.  Who cares about my clothes?  But I can still remember my first day of middle school and all the boys were wearing brand new Nikes.  I quickly noticed your popularity was tied to the coolness of your shoes.  I had these worn out beach shoes.  They served their purpose of protecting my feet, but they were the equivalent of driving a dirty twenty year old mini-van when everyone else was rolling in brand new luxury cars.  Oh the horror!

When I went home that night, I begged my mom to buy me a new pair of high tops so I could fit in with the other kids.  She thought about it for a moment and listened to my passionate argument.  After dinner, she drove to Payless Shoes and we picked up a pair of all white Jordache High Tops.  I couldn’t believe it, with one simple purchase I had entered the world of cool.  I ran around our house all night in those shoes.  I swore they instantly made me a better athlete.  They were so cool I even slept in them.


The next day, I ran into my homeroom so excited to show off my shoes.  I knew everyone would be sweating the new ride on my feet.  I had just traded in my clunker for a brand new Mercedes with all the extras.  White Jordache High Tops with red highlights does it get any cooler?  The answer is yes.  Immediately the kids started making fun of my shoes, because they weren’t Nikes or Reeboks.  I remember the kids saying, “I guess you bought Air Jordache because you couldn’t afford Air Jordans.”  “Are those shoes autographed…. by the manager at K-Mart?”  “Here’s a marker if you want to draw your own Swoosh.”

I remember running into the bathroom crying.  I hid those Jordache in my backpack and walked around the rest of the day in my socks.  That night I threw those shoes in my closet and never wore them again.  For the next 3 years of middle school, I saved every dime to buy the newest pair of Nikes.  My whole world revolved around tennis shoes.  I didn’t care about anything else.  I placed all of my value in a pair of shoes. 

In Luke 19:1-10, we learn about a man named Zaccheaus.  Scripture says, "he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd." Poor guy, for all of history he is not remembered for his faithfulness to Christ.  He is remembered for his lack of height.  Yet, this man who despised because of his profession was loved by Christ.  No matter our flaws, Jesus will always love us.  What?  That's right, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Top 10 reasons to be a Young Life Leader

10.  Jesus' Disciples were the original Young Life Leaders.  
9.  It is your chance to prove you were cool in high school.  Seriously cool!
8.  Being a Young Life leader could look great on your blank resume.
7.  You will be asked to participate in games and skits that will test your moral fiber.
6.  You and you alone can shape the future of the World one student at a time.
5.  It is time to take a break from Monday Night Football.

4.  Inappropriate humor is encouraged.
3.  You get to go to Young Life Camp.  Better known as the best week of your life!!!

2.  You will never have to buy another Young Life T-shirt.

1.  Over 100 percent of single Young Life Leaders will meet their spouse through Young Life.


Who is your neighbor?

During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Roy Lee Jenkins was a fanatical member of his local Klu Klux Klan.  Every Friday night, men from his order would gather at the American Legion and devise plans to run all of the Black People out of Forsythe County.  They would burn crosses in front of the black churches, harass them at work, and threaten their children with violence if the families did not move.  Blacks were not welcome in Forsythe County.  Period!
One hot muggy summer night, Jenkins and several members of the Klan entered downtown Atlanta to protest Martin Luther King.  At the offset, the local police did not want to intervene between the opposing groups.  The black community organized a peaceful demonstration and sat quietly on the steps of the State Capital.  The angry whites began yelling and shouting at the peaceful crowd. For several hours, the National Guard was able to control the crowds.  Then everything exploded in an instant.  A member of the Klan tossed a gasoline bomb into the center of the demonstration.  A panicked frenzy broke loose.  Blacks, whites, men, women, and children frantically fled for their lives.  As Jenkins began to run from the scene of the crime a car struck him.  His crumbled body was thrown into the street.  Members of his own clan trampled his body as they ran for their lives.   
His closest friends did not want to be caught by the police so they left him for dead.  Jenkins lay bloody and dying in the street for hours.  Countless members of the Klan passed by, but they ignored their fallen comrade. 
Jenkins lay in the street all night, praying that God would spare his life.  As he lay praying, two young black men found him in the street.  He couldn’t belief this is how he would die.  He would die at the hands of two of the people he hated most.  Two young black men had come to kill him at his weakest moment.  They were such cowards. 
He was too weak to fight back as the young men lifted Jenkins off the ground.  The men stripped him of his bloody white robes and tossed his hood on the ground.  Roy Lee was too weak to complain.  He just hoped they would kill him quickly. 
One of the men cradled Roy Lee in his arms and began to carry him through the back alleys of the city.  Where were they taking him?  Were these cowards going torture him?
The young men were terrified to help this white southerner, but they couldn’t leave him in the street to die. They certainly couldn’t take him to a hospital or police station.  Instead they took him to their mother’s house and called the neighborhood doctor.
Without saying a word, the doctor stitched up Roy Lee’s wounds and set his broken bones.  For the next week a family member faithfully sat by his bedside until Jenkins finally regained consciousness.
After a week of drifting in and out of consciousness, Roy Lee was finally ready to speak.  The two young men entered the room to check on their patient.  Jenkins finally gathered the courage to ask, “Why would you save my life?”  One of the boys stared at Jenkins for a while and then said, “Mister, ain’t nothing going to change if we don’t change.”

To think, his closest friends had left Jenkins for dead and the men he hated the most saved his life.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cars are made to be driven

This is a simple point, but cars are made to be driven.  The worst thing you can to a do car is let it sit.  A car needs to run to keep the engine, chassis, and other components lubricated.  When the first car was built, no one imagined placing it in a museum for the entirety of it's life.

As a child, our neighbor owned a 1986 Ferrari Testarossa.  It was a sweet ride, no doubt.  However, Dr. Gindell refused to pull this thing out of the garage.  In 1987, the car had been driven for 500 miles.  Most people drive over a thousand miles a month. This doesn't seem like the best investment of $250,000.  I remember begging Dr. Gindell to please let us ride in his car, but he would say, "Sorry boys this car isn't meant to be driven."  Really, because it has fours wheels and a motor.

Finally my junior year of high school we finally talk him into taking the Ferrari out for a spin.  You know what happened?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  The car wouldn't even start.  It had been sitting so long that the alternator had drained the battery.  The car had to be towed to the auto shop because it had never been driven.

This story sounds crazy, but we treat our bodies the same way.  We were designed to be used by God, but our bodies must be maintained.  We cannot expect sit around for three straight years, hop off the couch and run a marathon.  Would you drive a car across the country if it had been sitting in your yard for the past five years.  No, that would be crazy.  Would you ever consider bypassing all of the routine maintenance your car needs?  No, but we constantly bypass the maintenance our bodies need. We don't get enough sleep.  We skip breakfast.  We fail to invest in meaningful relationships.  We need to move, we need to rest, and we need to be maintained.

My point:  Start a spiritual and physical maintenance program for your life.