Tuesday, April 24, 2007


In my Grace Life courses, they say that each person has three core lies that have shaped our life apart from Christ: a lie about God, a lie about ourself, and a lie about others. As we understand those lies, we begin to see a lot of what motivates us to live and act the way that we do in our flesh (flesh being dependence on self to meet our needs rather than depending on God to do that).

I remember when I was 10 or 11, my family got a new puppy, and I asked my step-mom if I could be the one to feed it. She asked me why, and I said, “I just want to be someone’s favorite.” At the time, see, I had at least one, if not two, baby sisters (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) and I am guessing that I was dealing with adjusting from being an only child for 10 years to being one of two (or three).

The story about the puppy is kind of cute and bittersweet – what kid doesn’t struggle some when the new baby comes around? But I think that this desire to be a favorite has continued to simmer in me, and may even be one of my core lies. I want to be significant and accepted (other words for favorite), and I depend on many different things to meet those needs. Sometimes it’s work, and so God gives me the gift of failure, like when the IV chapter I staffed went from 150-plus students down to 30 in a span of three years. Sometimes it’s “stuff”, so God gives me the gift of dissatisfaction with my “toys” that I buy.

Lately it has been people. I’ve felt extremely lonely in recent months, but am knee-deep in a river of wonderful friends. I have a small group of great people at church, a regular group of men that I meet with each week who really encourage and refresh me, some wonderful go-to guys that I can call on at any time, and a wonderful wife who has become my dearest friend. I’ve got friends on IV staff, friends at church, friends at other churches. Yet I was feeling so lonely and alone. Why? Because Diane and I didn’t seem to have another couple who was our “best” friend. We weren’t anyone’s “favorite”.

A couple of weekends ago we went to the mountains with two other couples who spend a lot of time together, and while I was excited to go and be with them, my thinking was dominated by worrying if we were the third wheel couple, and so I put on my fearful lenses and saw interactions through those. I was not myself, overthinking all that I said, and eaten up inside. Everything in me told me to just keep it in, to not risk with my friends and admit my junkiness and survive the weekend. But the Lord has given me another gift, the gift of being open and vulnerable (which is not always a fun gift) because I’d rather be known than be alone. And so I shared my heart with the men, and I was so encouraged. Not only did they affirm their love and concern for me and my identity in Christ, but they also shared their own fears of insignificance, and I think our friendship deepened and moved forward that day.

One thing that I began to think about while talking with them and praying was that maybe “favorite” is a term that God would rather us not use. Favorite implies ranking, puts people in classes and orders and elevates them on worthiness to be loved. God would rather us love and appreciate people uniquely, connecting with them on different levels of depth and interest, appreciating them in the moment for who they are and what our relationship is. He also reminded me, again, that my significance is only in Him. Not in people. Not in work. Not in stuff. Sadly, I also realized how long fear of not being the favorite has tainted so many relationships, leading me to be selfish in some, to run from others, to be fearful in still others.

I don’t think that the Father, apart from Jesus, has a favorite in His Kingdom. Except that I am His favorite me. You are His favorite you. Uniquely and wonderfully made, not ranked against other children, not judged or justified on a sliding scale. He simply and consistently loves, who we are, as we are, giving us significance and worth through Christ and the price He paid on the cross.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

An unblievable morning

This Saturday I finally cashed in on my greatest birthday present to date - I went to Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte NC and drove a Winston Cup car (I mean NEXTEL CUP)! I can't begin to tell you how much fun I had and what a thrill it was. It wasn't thrilling in the "I was scared for my life" sort of way, but rather just to get a taste of what it was like to go that fast with that much horsepower under you was unreal.After reading this, feel free to check out the video I made of the experience.

The program was with The Richard Petty Driving Experience, and after some instruction I started out with a 3-lap ride-along, driven by one of the Petty instructors. I was able to get in the #8 Budweiser Chevy (just a nice bonus), and the acceleration in that thing was astounding. Going into the turns took your breath away as the g-forces pulled you up the track towards the wall, yet the car just stuck and went on around. I imagine that we went at least 165 miles an hour, and it was as smooth as can be. My legs were weak when I got out of the car, but 3 laps was nowhere near enough.

Soon it was time for my 8 laps driving, by myself (I thought that there was going to be an instructor in the car with me). They make it very easy for you - simply follow the pace car in front of you, staying right in their tracks. They pick the best line around the track, and as you show them that you can keep up, they will speed up. At first I was just amazed to be driving - it seemed surreal, and I had to remember that they wanted me up close to the pace car. As we got going faster and faster, all I could do was grin and yell for joy. It was not very hard to control the car - they are built to go fast and turn left, after all. But it was a thrill to go that fast, that near to being out of control, yet feel like the car would do whatever you want.

The image that sticks in my head the most is being in the middle of turn 3 - you just feel swallowed by the track because the banking is so high - you see pavement above and pavement below. (At the start of the day they took us around the track in a 15-passenger van, and at one point they stopped in the middle of a turn, and you just sort of hung there sideways).

As I got more comfortable, the speeds picked up, and it began to feel like I was really doing it. They had rules about when to get out of the throttle (there were cones on the track for when to give it gas and when to ease up in the turns), and the longer I went, the harder it was to hold off on mashing the gas until getting to the proper cone.The power that those cars have is unreal. In my car, you can be going fast and give it gas and it takes a little while to respond. There is no wait time with these. You hit it, the car GOES! After driving, I was tempted to think, "That's not so hard, what they do each Sunday." Then I remembered that their top speeds are more than 60 miles an hour faster, and they do it with 43 other cars all around them. Not that easy.

I noticed that a lot of the folks there had their friends/family/wives take a ride-along, and so I asked Diane if she wanted to take a ride-along. How often would we have this chance? So, after thinking a moment, she took me up on it, signed up, and soon was off for her own ride. I was glad that she was brave enough to try it, and she had a great time.Jacob was there, too, and unbelievably he slept through most of it! My friend Chris has a great blog post about taking his son to a race, and his contentment in noise is a picture of our opportunity to rest in Christ.

So, thank you to everyone who contributed towards this awesome gift. Special thanks to Diane and to Brian Walker, who organized the gift and who went with me to cheer me on. I hate to say it, but I think I need to do this again someday!