I Like His Style

One of my favorite new TV shows kind of snuck up on me and made me like it.  It’s the story of a man who has a dream.  His dream is fleshed out in his 95-point plan to make his town of 456 residents… D’lo, Mississippi… the greatest town in America.

Small Town, Big Mayor features Mayor John Henry Berry’s pursuit of bringing his hometown back from near-extinction… and I don’t want to miss an episode.  My attraction to the show goes beyond the fact that it is pure… and clean… and humorous.  It’s the hero… the champion… the tip of the spear this guy has chosen to be for his town.

I love that he saw a need and decided something had to be done to fix what was wrong.  I love that he came up with a plan… probably more than what anyone else had done. I love that he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to set the example of what it’s going to take to make the dream become reality.  I love that he loves that town and those people enough to put up with some of their goofiness (and their ridiculous ideas of what they think a mayor ought to do for them) because he has the greater good in mind.  I love that he is willing to get out of his comfort zone to help others, and to ensure that his plan is working.

I guess I watch for a few laughs.  But more and more I watch for inspiration.  And I find myself wanting to live passionately like Mayor John Henry Berry.  It reminds me how Jesus loved and served people.

On tonight’s episode, he was teaching his daughter how to operate a track hoe to help him fix a busted water main.  She didn’t think she could do it.  In that moment of her insecurity in her own abilities, he told her that she COULD do it… that she had his blood flowing through her veins.

That’s when I was reminded of those times when I don’t think I can do something, and the Lord says gently to my heart and mind, “Sure you can, son, you’ve got my blood flowing through your veins.”

You may not find a humorous reality TV show inspiring… or motivational… or spiritual, but I do. At least this one.  And so I cheer for Mayor John Henry Berry.  I’m going to keep watching as he whittles away at those 95 points one at a time till his dream becomes reality.  Go get ’em, Mayor Berry!  You can do it!  And you’re inspiring us to believe that we can, too.


Scars Before Trophies

I laughed till I cried and could hardly catch my breath.  Three or four of us older teenagers were helping our youth pastor build a float to represent our church in a local parade. Someone hurt themselves a little, and someone else told a story of a time when they got hurt.  We each took a turn telling a story about getting hurt.  Then Mike told a story about getting hurt that topped them all.

Not to be outdone… because now this was a competitive display of our manhood… we each began pulling out our best injury stories. There were lots of “ohhhhh’s” and “no way’s.”  And after each person told their next story, Mike would tell one of his… usually rolling up a pant leg or lifting a sleeve to show us the scar related to that story.  This got us laughing.  As it went on, we all ran out of stories, and Mike just kept telling his till we laughed harder and harder.

That night, building that float together and telling stories of injuries we had survived… Mike winning the manhood trophy, of course… drew us all together.  Looking back, I get it.  The greatest inspirational stories… the ones that open our heart to hear what others have to say… the ones that draw us to them… the ones that make us want to know them… are the stories which involve someone overcoming injury and adversity.  It’s when they show us their scars… because scars prove they know what it’s like to be hurt, and they also prove that healing can take place.

I love watching the Olympics.  And I can be planning to cheer for one person, but then the network hosting the airing will show a video telling of a different athlete’s trials they had to overcome to make it to the Olympics.  Suddenly, I’m drawn to that person… caught up in their story as it unfolds… wanting them to succeed and win.  And when they do, it’s all the sweeter because I know what they had to go through to win that medal.  Their scars made me celebrate their victory.

Mark Lowry said once, “When someone won’t show you their scars, I don’t really care to see their trophies.”  You see, it’s not the successes people achieve which inspire us and engage us.  It is the scars they show us which they got on the way to winning the trophy.  It says to us that we may get hurt, but we will heal… and we can even go on to win.

Lots of people hate on the disciple known as “doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead till he saw the scars, but he had not been there when Jesus showed Himself alive to the disciples the first time.  In my opinion, his response was totally normal to the human condition.  Yet when he saw the scars, it gave him hope… caused him to believe… inspired him… motivated him.

It’s not so different today, is it?  People want hope.  People want to believe.  But they need to see some scars.  They need to hear someone say that they got hurt, but they also healed.  Once they see our scars, they will be able to believe that they, too, can heal from their hurts in life.

So let’s pull down our defenses some today.  Let’s be real… genuine… authentic… vulnerable… a little less than perfect.  Let’s do like Mike, and keep showing our scars till everyone else listening to us thinks, “Hey, my life’s not that bad.  And they healed up, maybe I will, too.”  When we do, our trophies will actually shine a little brighter in their eyes, and we will inspire them to pursue victory for themselves!

Grilled Cheese And Chopsticks

From age 1 to age 7, my family lived in Moorhead, Minnesota. It was a twin city to Fargo, North Dakota… separated by the Red River, which was also the state line. At the time, Fargo was bigger and had some amenities that Moorhead did not. So, it was not uncommon for us to go there to shop or eat.

One particular day stands out in my memory. It was the day Mom and Dad took me with them to Fargo to run some errands. While we were out, they decided we would eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant there in Fargo… Phil Wong’s.

Now I had not, at that young age, formed the excellent pallete for food which I currently possess. So, Mom and Dad ordered something like Moo Goo Gai Pan… and I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. (Phil was not offended. He made money either way.)

What no one eating in that fine establishment- especially my parents- counted on when they sat down to enjoy their lunch was the level of entertainment they would receive from our table that day.  Our food was served, and Mom and Dad became engrossed in some kind of conversation which apparently bored my creative-child mind.

To hear Mom and Dad tell this part of the story is  better, but I will do my best.  As they talked, they began to hear murmurs and giggles coming from tables around us. At first they dismissed it, but it began to build. Then they began to see people pointing at something… wait, they were pointing at our table. “But why,” thought Mom and Dad… till they realized that everyone was pointing behind them toward where I was seated.

By the time they turned around to see what all the hub-bub was about, I had my entire grilled cheese sandwich suspended in mid-air between my plate and my mouth.  I had one chopstick in each of my small fists stabbed into the middle of the grilled cheese. It was beginning to tilt in such a way that it was twisting the chopsticks away from their balanced position. And that is what had all the onlookers so intrigued.  Had Vegas known about this attempt, I’m pretty odds would have been announced and bets would have been placed.

Mom and Dad were horrified at the hilarious and harrowing effort. (This was up there with the flying Wallendas, people.)  They wanted to tell me to stop, but it was too close… and I had to give the people what they wanted.

So, while it wasn’t pretty, I finally got a bite. People chuckled and cheered, and a showman was born. And then I was very clearly instructed that this was not proper etiquette for future reference.

Let’s face it… no one expected to see a kid try to eat a grilled cheese with chopsticks that day because that just isn’t what you do.  Sadly, we let that type of mentality dictate far too much of our lives.

God doesn’t always do things the way people expect. He looks at our lives from a different perspective.  Look at Scripture. God did some of the most creative, outlandish things people have ever seen.  His Word says His ways aren’t like our ways, and our thoughts aren’t like His thoughts.

His Word also says He is doing something new.  New means you and I haven’t seen it before, or at least not like what He’s talking about.  When was the last time you invited God to do something new in your life? Who knows what amazing and creative ideas He has cooked up to bless you?!

Let’s not be content with a life of eating grilled cheese sandwiches with our hands, people… Grab those proverbial chopsticks and let God do something new in you… for you… through you! Who knows… you might just enjoy it and bring joy to a lot of folks around you.

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