They were not church bells ringing in unison but twelve distinct beats chiming through the quiet still of night. Their sound lingered ever so sweetly and hung suspended beneath a star filled sky. They strike at noon and on the hour but this time, they ring in something new.
Pin Action living for god/trust solely
Where have you been and where are you going? The usual myriad of resolutions and recaps sputter upon pages of calendars and excel spreadsheets with compartments of "to do" and "will do better" lists in the comments of hidden margins. A "pin action" is a phrase used when describing pins that hit one another and fall. Things we come to believe bumping one by one knocking pins over: some fall, some remain standing but either way, they create the frame of our perspectives.
Some years are easier than others; we each have the ebb and flow of a journey. By the shear nature of humanity, we are in a constant motion of change. As much as we would like to freeze a moment in time, we can't.
We don't get to control the early parts of our lives - the ones that set us on a course; we expect the ball to hit in the same place over and over again. This simple word called resurrection and the pins are set anew where the ball that travels down a lane is tweaked slightly from where it began and over time, it changes our perspectives too.
Faith in a living God means we are in the process of becoming more Christ-like. What does that mean exactly beyond the things we can control?
How does a simple wooden cross relate to a game of bowling and the start of a new year?
The story (a frame)
God enters the story exactly where you are. When younger, it was enough to figure out life: career, marriage, parenting, health, finances and the list goes on but then you add a 1/2 century of life, and the idea of figuring things out seems less likely from where I began. From the outside, things look pretty straight forward but I find myself going back to those early, impressionable, subconscious ideas of working hard and praying harder but it really had less to do about my being a good person and more about control and fear. Two things contrary to scripture. Surrender and trust are a lot more difficult but before I can go forward, I need to go backwards.
Now don't get me wrong, I like to rest and relax just as much as the next guy but a few things are at play: 1) I care deeply - which means I carry burdens that are not always mine 2) I am not necessarily the smartest person in the room - which means I work a little harder and am conscientious to a fault and 3) I never want to disappoint - which means I sometimes connect dots that are not entirely true. On the flip side: Jesus wept, God uses broken people and He knows the number of hairs on our heads.
This website is about faith: If I am in the process of an unfolding story, so are you. I rather like small attractive boxes with ribbons and religion would be a whole lot easier if it fit the bill but a relationship with Jesus was scandalous 2000 years ago and with the holy spirit, it is still today. Crucifying our desires to the transforming power of the cross means we don't get just one chance but the pins are lifted, loose ones swept to the "pit" and replaced for, yet, another opportunity at change deep within our being.
People don't like that. Money has no power. Influence has no control. Position has no dominion. The work of the Holy Spirit, the power of His name, the miracles and perseverance through prayer, the depth of our souls being changed from the inside out - now that is scandalous!
Clover living for god/trust solely
Clover - four strikes in a row, Dinner bucket, Double-wood left, Baby split, Big four, Greek (Cathedral) church, Dime store, Washout, a Flush, an Andy Varipapa or a Wombat- getting a spare after throwing a gutter ball. In throws, there is the Straight, a Hook, a Curve and a Back-up ball. There is a Sparrow - three spares in a row: all of these are terms used in the play of bowling. It is a shared language that communicates one game.
Our stories - these are the voices that articulate our experiences; they cross racial, gender, political, religious, cultural lines to enunciate one humanity. It is but one frame in this game called life. It is but one pin from where we have been and where we are going. The premise of the leisure sport of indoor bowling is there is ten frames to a game. Each player has two chances to knock down all twelve pins. In the tenth frame, a bonus shot is given to players who have earned it.
As in any sport, it is the mental attitude that wins and looses games. I like team recreation; the idea that one connects to another for the advantage of a greater goal. I think the trouble with society these days, is we are being suffocated by the busy-ness of our own lives. The marrow is being sucked out of the bones of a wooden pin. Bowling pins are constructed by gluing blocks of rock maple wood, shaped on a lathe, coated with plastic, painted and covered with a glossy finish. Natural and man-made disasters give us permission to ease the souls of our indentations but the day to day stories of our lives require our vulnerability to wear away the paint chips past the glossy finishes. We work on keeping the coating in place. Why? Because of exposure: 1) maybe people will learn we have more questions than answers 2) maybe we will screw up and 3) we are scared ... then God enters the story. We are a flawed people, created for relationship with a desire to trust in someone/something greater than ourselves.
This is where the wooden cross enters the game. Does it matter if it is in frame 1-12? No - as long as it happens. Who misses out if the change happens in frame 2 verses frame 8? You because God can use you to effect other pins (people). Jesus says on the cross, "forgive them for they know not what they do". We are left with a counselor and a plan and a hope.
Anchor living for god/trust solely
Unequivocally, I am a morning person. I would call my daughter, in contrast, my "cup of coffee" girl - even as a baby, she woke up slowly and did not want a lot of noise or action; she wanted to
"ease" into the day slowly. We are just wired differently. Why is this helpful information? Because my mental game is going to be sharper earlier, at the rise of a new day. The later in the day, the proponents of doubt creeps in. I get tired and weak and begin to play the "what if game". What if x happens? What if I had prayed on y a little harder?
An Anchor is the person who bowls last - it is the best or person who stays cool under pressure. I am pretty comfortable living in the symbolic, subtle philosophical parts of science and faith but if I want to bowl some strikes and spares late in the game, I need to do some tangible and proactive maneuvers.
God used Joseph, told in the story of Genesis, to articulate this point. Joseph had every reason to give up hope. Again and again his life demonstrated gutter balls: his brothers couldn't stand him and ended up dumping their own brother into slavery. He gets falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. Each step of the way, he had every reason to believe the best he could get in life were a few scrappy points.
I have no substantial evidence but I believe Joseph was an "athlete" at heart. He had self confidence early on, along with a deep rooted belief that he was created for great things but life chiseled away at the paint-chipped marrow of his life. Through it all, his depth of character grew. He hung on to the belief that God had a plan for his life - he just couldn't see it. So he had to deliberately choose to exchange control for surrender and fear to trust.
If we believe in Kingdom living, we too, must make some tangible choices:
The fog was thick and heavy; it was as if tears welled up within the cloud of heavens. My eyes could not see where I was going but droplets of water falling on windowed glass precipitated thought - one that refused to escape. It was a journey it was a hope.
This was an excerpt from a post earlier in the year. Depending on my position on the "google" highway, you will either see it or not. Because of the direct use of music and video clips, I have revamped my website which essentially means starting over, which is precisely the meaning of this month's post. What frame are you jumping into in this story?
Even with 1/2 century of life, I am drawn back to frame 1. Could there have been a more favorable outcome had I prayed a bit harder or been a little less human? My mind subconsciously and subtly wanders toward a "butterfly" effect where Science is skewed to things we can't explain. Broken wings, can we create order of chaos? A great discussion for a job, or even Science, but not as beneficial in life and love, and certainly, not in faith which is exactly what makes the game so much fun. We just don't know when or where the next strikes and spares are coming or from whose story they emerge. More importantly, however, is God's story. Embrace it. It is a whole lot more unpredictable and interesting than people who have more money, more power and more influence. Instead our prayer becomes - Lord God, give me more of you, Amen.
We, on the other hand, become more agile in catching and throwing balls the more we exchange surrender over control and trust over fear and with the power of the holy spirit, lives are transformed - not just mine but yours; It is a scandalous journey called faith!
So what does that mean for me in a game of bowling - I have no idea what I am doing or where I am going but I know whose I belong to and in the process take baby steps of obedience in his word and in the worship of his holy name, Jesus.
He (Jesus) said to them, "Go into the World and preach the good news to all creation"
May you choose joy over circumstances. I pray blessings percolate from up within your core and that you get more strikes and spares than gutter balls. Thanks for reading.
Glossary of Bowling (wikipedia)
pictures and stories are my own: copyright 2018
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.