Category: Fear

When We Encounter Accusations

When We Encounter Accusations

“Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.’ At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!'” Acts 23:1-3

  • Speak courageously
  • Follow your convictions
  • Some will resent you
  • Leave vengeance with God

Discovering Community

I can think of one benefit of the recent firestorms in Colorado Springs: we’ve reconnected with friends from around the world who have emailed or called to ask how we are. In relating Colorado’s tragedy to friends in Chicago I discovered that there are many layers to a disaster like this. There is the layer […]

Man vs. Nature. No Question Who’s Boss

Man vs. Nature. No Question Who’s Boss

“A firestorm of epic proportions.”

So spoke the Fire Chief of Colorado Springs, a man who has seen many fires in his career. What started as a relatively small smoke spiral at noon on a Saturday in a popular hiking spot in the foothills west of town, quickly expanded to a 3500 acre blaze moving first south, then west. 3 days in, everything changed.

On Tuesday, June 26th, the highest-ever recorded temperature in Colorado history, combined with 2 years of drought, caused a growing conflagration driving in from the forest on the west-side foothills of the city. Suddenly a rainless thunderstorm blew in from the west at 65 miles per hour. The perfect storm of conditions brought about Colorado Springs’ worst nightmare. The blaze exploded over the ridge, burning downhill and eastward, through canyons leading into even more parched land, grass and forests– shared with some of the most scenic neighborhoods in the city. It fast became the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

Fire commanders in the middle of their afternoon media briefing turned to look at the unfolding scene. The stunned look of disbelief in their eyes said everything the public feared: the unimaginable was happening. Walls of flames and exploding trees rolled downhill into the city. Immediately 2 neighborhoods in its path were put on mandatory evacuation. One of those, Peregrine, is where my family and I lived for 6 years.

32,000 people suddenly had their lives turned entirely upside down. Cars, vans, pickups and trailers formed a gridlock caravan leaving their homes, fleeing the flames they could see in their rear-view mirrors. It took a terror-stricken three hours for some to drive the three miles to escape to the interstate. Many of those folks are friends and former neighbors we contacted by text or phone calls. The sound of stunned horror and disbelief in their voices was visceral. We agonized for them; how easily that could have been my family and me.

Within those three hours, homes in the path of the blaze caught fire. Exploding trees threw ash and embers at manicured landscapes and onto the roofs of well-maintained houses, which themselves began exploding into an inferno that eventually took two lives, destroyed 18,000 acres, 346 homes, and damaged hundreds more. One of Colorado Springs’ most attractive communities, Mountain Shadows, was turned into a scene looking more like a nuclear holocaust.  The national fire commander on the scene, with nearly 30 years of wildfire-fighting experience, pointed to a map showing the swirling footprint of the fire and said, “I’ve been fighting fires for a long time. I’ve never seen fire behavior like this before.”

This stunning video shows the awful nature of this fire in time lapse photography. When you can, watch it at least through the perfect-storm turn of events on Tuesday afternoon and evening (marks 6:40-8:00). Given this perspective, it’s a miracle that there was not more damage. It’s a testament to the round-the-clock effort of the firefighters. Still, it will take many years to restore that community into a liveable and hopefully safer one.

Modern mankind likes to think it has control over nature. The hydro-electric dams, nuclear power plants, skyscrapers and space travel of the past century have given us in the developed world in particular, a sense of power, invincibility and control beyond reality. The truth is becoming more evident. In just the past year, we have seen earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and wildfires that have individually set records for destruction, and collectively impact the earth like nothing before experienced. In the U.S. alone 2011 broke records for the most billion dollar weather disasters ever: 14.

Man vs. Wild is a popular cable show that pits a tough human with the best name ever, Bear Grylls, against some of the toughest challenges nature can throw at him in a test of survival. His ingenuity and creativity in survival makes for entertaining TV. We cheer him on; at least I do. But let’s not fool ourselves. Place him, or any of us, in front of a 50 foot high tsunami traveling at 90 miles per hour, and we’re gone. Place him in a concrete hotel crumbling under the shock waves of a 7.5 earthquake, and he’s buried alive. Place him the the path of a raging inferno of flames roaring downhill in the midst of dry tinder wood, and he’s toast.

All of Creation groans under the impact of the Fall (Ro. 8:21, 22) – and as a result horrific tragedies beyond belief happen to mankind. All the more, it seems, with each passing year. Yet Creation also still reflects the power of its Creator. God rules the waves; He has dominion over the skies; He speaks and the mountains obey. In the midst of overwhelming tragedy and destruction at the hands of nature, God’s power and even his majesty are revealed.

In my next post I’ll share some thoughts about how we can respond when He doesn’t intervene as often as we hope He would. Until then…

Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,                                                                                                                                                                                                                   sing praise to the Lord,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God! (Ps. 68:32-35)

Lord, have mercy on us all.

(Photos courtesy of Vance Brown and Facebook.)



Feeling Grief; Choosing Joy

Yesterday was the third birthday I began with tears in my eyes. The first was when I was spanked by the delivering surgeon. The second was the “original” 9/11 ten years ago. In the years immediately following that awful day, it wasn’t unusual for me to receive a raised eyebrow, a grimaced face, or even […]

Why Guys Love Sports

Why Guys Love Sports

Dick Butkus: Monster of the Midway

In a previous post, I raised the question of the benefits of Competition in sports, or any arena, versus the benefits of Community. Sometimes competition can seem so self-centered; while community is so other-centered.

Why is it then, that when I recently came across an article I tore out of an airline magazine, that I relished the memories and images that the violent sport of football brought to mind?

The article, entitled Nickel Package , was an interview of Steve Sabol, the golden-piped voice of NFL Films. He was asked to describe the 5 greatest moments in NFL history. A challenge of enormous proportions, given his familiarity with the countless great moments in the NFL. As a Chicago Bears fan, I have to admit my joyous bias toward his choices:

5. The 1967 NFL Championship Game, the “Ice Bowl” in the “frozen tundra”, in which Green Bay beat the Dallas Cowboys. In referring to the final scoring drive of 68 yards against the Doomsday Defense, Sabol says, “The character of that achievement surpassed the achievement itself…It cemented the Packers as  the romantic team of legend.”

4. Chicago’s Gale Sayers’ six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers, on Dec. 12, 1965. Of Sayers’ individual brilliance Sabol says,  other outstanding running backs “had moves that were indescribable…Gale Sayers had moves that were unimaginable.” I still remember the couch I was sitting on in my friend’s home in Wilmette, IL that Sunday afternoon nearly 50 years ago. What is that all about?

3. Adam Vinatieri’s last-second, 45 yard field goal in a blizzard. Calling it one of the game’s most cinematic moments, Sabol says, “That kick, in many ways, was the beginning of the modern Patriots dynasty.” I know my college roommate, D-Wayne, raised in Foxboro, Mass, would heartily agree.

2. The “helmet catch” from 2007’s Super Bowl XLII. Sabol calls Eli Manning’s amazing scramble just to get the pass off, and David Tyree’s still-hard-to-believe, one-hand-against-his-helmet catch “the greatest play the Super Bowl has ever produced…It featured two super-human efforts.”

Then, I felt my heart skip a beat and I almost yelled, Yes!! (remember this was originally in an airplane) when I saw Sabol’s pick for the Number 1 “moment” of the NFL: “The collective crashes, clotheslines and concussive ambushes that was the career of Dick Butkus.” In his legendarily descriptive language Sabol went on to say, Butkus’ career as middle linebacker for the Bears was “the most sustained work of devastation ever committed on a football field by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

He stood for something just as important as victory. No one ever played harder or better than Dick Butkus; he gave everything he had on every play.” In all humility, I just have to say, I agree. If you’d like further proof, take a look at this: Butkus highlights. ’nuff said.

Once again, I ask myself, What is this all about? How is it that sports are so captivating, heroes are so inspiring, accomplishments are so memorable 5 decades later, especially to us men? Those emotions themselves may just be the answer. It’s what we see on the field or the court- courage, teamwork, challenge, desperation, agony, joy, risk, accomplishment, loss, sacrifice, miracles, grace, power, speed.  Irresistible forces meeting immovable objects.

It sounds trite, but in many ways sports so often portray, and prepare us for the same experiences and emotions we encounter in life: “The joy of victory; the agony of defeat.”

It’s one of the few ways we men move from our heads to our hearts, and it’s OK. It’s one of the few places we might even be moved to tears, and be proud of them. Feeling emotions with each other, rather than just logic. A relatively rare accomplishment in itself. And we love that journey.

Courage or Just Foolishness?

Courage or Just Foolishness?

One of the qualities I see in men is a thirst for adventure. We seem to have a built-in longing for risk that results in a new experience or a special accomplishment. At it’s deepest level it’s a hunger for significance. It’s a partial answer to the question: Do I matter?

I have this hunger. Virtually all men I know, and many of the women, do in some degree or another.   My friend, Jim, has it in abundance. Yet, when he sent this link,  highest-waterfall-in-a-kayak-189-ft-video, it raised some interesting observations for him:

“The extent a male will go trying to prove his manhood, or courage in the face of ultimate challenge…Do we decide the wisdom after the outcome, or do we make that determination before it is done? What positives do we experience in life because people had this kind of view of things . . . is this the heart of an astronaut, or a fighter pilot or a missionary to cannibals? Or is it foolishness? Is he a slave to the adrenaline rush and the fleeting glory this world offers, or a hero?”

Somewhere there is a line between courage and foolishness. My gut tells me this guy is over the edge in more ways than one. What do you think?


3 Powerful, Fearful Men

We men like to think we are fearless, but when we are honest with ourselves we can admit to a number of fears that we often live with: fear of rejection; fear of loss; probably most of all, fear of failure. In John 18 and 19 we read of 3 men who, though powerful, experienced […]

Just Show Up

Just Show Up

For over 35 years I’ve regularly been in speaking situations–whether one-on-one, small group or large gatherings. Almost every time I have hopes that the occasion will be life-changing, memorable, transformational.

There’s probably nothing wrong with desiring a positive result. But I really have no right to conclude I know what the best result is. And I have learned with certainty that I sure can’t control that outcome anyway!

At home, at work, at church and in the community, we often find that others are not as convinced or influenced by our plans as we are. It turns out other people have their own convictions and impressions. And God has his own plan, too.

Once on retreat with a small group of men, I decided to read a passage from a book that reveals profound insights into the deeper meaning of the Lord’s Prayer. After reading from the book and showing a video clip on a similar theme to the group, I had a plan for what lesson I wanted us to gain from the teaching.

What I didn’t anticipate was my reaction at the end of the video: I wept.

I was profoundly struck by a new perspective on a familiar truth. I was overcome by the message it spoke to me, not to the others, and I sobbed in the arms of one of my friends. So much for manly pursuits.

Men, here’s something I’ve learned over time. When we have a deep conversation with our wives, an awkward session with our daughters or sons, find ourselves in over our heads in a demanding situation, or stand in front of others who are waiting to hear what we have to say, the most important thing we can do is, Just show up.

Virtually every time I speak I follow a fairly simple process:

  • Prepare sincerely with guidance from the Spirit
  • Speak passionately from the heart
  • Let go of the controls
  • Allow God to decide what he plans to do with it

Our open-handed, heart-felt presence is the most important thing we bring. Just show up; let God decide what he wants to do with you.

Getting Out of the Headlights

Not long ago I got together with a group of men who were good acquaintances, but hadn’t seen each other in a while. We wanted to catch up with each other’s personal lives, but I find that when you ask men, “Tell us what’s going on in your life,” they either respond with a deer-in-the-headlight […]