Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tag you're in!

A recent retreat for the men of our church included a paintball competition that was eye opening on several different points.

The safety equipment consisted solely of a plastic helmet with goggles.

Eye opener #1: I guess our mothers were right when they identified the salient danger in shooting activities as being the loss of an eye. (One of our guys discovered that other protective gear a little farther south on the anatomy might have been a good idea as well. Can’t believe nobody thought of THAT ahead of time.)

Our rules of engagement for the fast paced games of capture the flag on a relatively small course, were pretty simple: All participants had to start with a hand touching their home base. At a given signal competition began. The winning team was the first team to grab the white flag hanging from a stick in the middle of the course and return said flag to their home base. The only other rule stated that (obviously) if you’re hit by a paintball, you’re out, but if anyone from your team touches you after you’re hit, you’re back in the game.

At the opening signal my teammates and I sprinted for the makeshift barricades strewn randomly around the course, firing wildly in the general direction of the flock of enemy players flying headlong from their own home base. Paintballs zzzinnnnged from the barrel of my weapon, hooking and slicing with a randomness reminiscent of my few disastrous golf outings.

Eye-opener #2: The fear of stepping into the line of paint pellet fire made all of us appreciate the courage veterans in our group must possess to have faced live rounds from real enemies.

It only took about 30 seconds for me to get thwapped in the appendix by a lucky shot from one of my fellow men’s ministry “brothers” on the other team.

“I’m HIT!” I said, using the designated sign of holding a hand up. That’s when I realized that I was separated from my teammates by at least 10 yards. No one even looked my direction. They were all focused rather intently on the battle before them, firing their weapons and squeezing themselves as tightly as possible behind what little cover they had found.

Eye opener #3: (And this one is a life lesson) Your teammates have their own battles to fight and skin to save, so keeping a big distance between you and them means when you’re hit, you may be out of action for a while.

I knelt there, powerless to help, as the bad guys steadily gained ground over my outnumbered team. Suddenly one of the brothers on my team jumped from the safety of his wooden spool and dashed across the open ground toward me, slapping me rather rudely on the head and diving for a tree as bright balls of paint splattered all around.

I leapt forward to a spot alongside a teammate crouching behind a pallet and began firing anew. Almost immediately I was dinked on the head by another shot, but being so close to my teammate, he simply reached over, slapped my back (kinda hard), and I was instantly back in action.

Eye opener #4: (Another life lesson closely related to e.o. #3) The buddy system is the way to go if you want to stay in the game.

We “played” as long as we had paintballs to shoot. Afterwards we showed off our welts, laughed at each other’s war stories and headed back to the dorm. On the way back I couldn’t help wondering: if one of these men were shot down by a fiery dart from the enemy, is it possible that they might only require a simple compassionate touch from a brother willing to go out to them to get back in the battle?
Maybe that’s what Galatians 6:1 means, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

It's certainly worth a try.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Luke 19:1-10 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.
When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.”
Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”
Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”
Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham!
For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

When it comes to saving people, Jesus was (is) truly the master. Zacchaeus is living proof that our natural reactions to “sinful” people, i.e. our attitudes of hostility and prejudice, don’t help change people. It only drives the bad behavior deeper.
If the townspeople had the authority to require Zacchaeus to change that would be one thing, but since they couldn’t make him change, their attitude toward him only made him more determined to look out for number one.
Jesus changes everything with just a word, a kind word. And suddenly, we see a different man in Zacchaeus after this brief conversation with Christ.
I like the look of natural wood. I like to see the grain of the wood. I think it is more beautiful than the most original tint or texture of paint.
Why do we paint things anyway? To make them match, to cover things up.
That’s what bad behavior is. It is an attempt to change the subject or cover something up or protect ourselves from something.
The problem is that when we try to remove the paint, if we’re not careful, we don’t just remove the paint,. We may scrape or cut or gouge the wood underneath.
The question we have to answer is “What is underneath the surface that we can't see?”
There is a person under that covering, under that paint if you will, that God dearly loves and wants to deal with in a loving way.
A lost child that he wants to restore.
Maybe they have applied a coat of paint to themselves as a cover up, to make themselves appear differently than they are, to protect themselves.
Jesus can remove this coat of paint, this fa├žade of behavior with just a simple knock, a kind word. We should be careful let Him have his way.