Those Charlie Brown Moments
When I told my story, you responded; train me well in your deep wisdom.
Psalm 119:26 (The Message)
At some point in my early childhood, I fell in love with food. My mother and her family came from the deep-fried South. “If it can’t be boiled in bacon grease,” as Dad would say, “send it up North and let them eat it.” We lived large on fried okra, chicken-fried steak, and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. It didn’t take long for me to learn the mysteries of physiology and physics, and in particular, the law of cause and effect.
My first lesson occurred during PE class at the beginning of seventh grade in Midland, Texas. Our coach instructed all the boys to stand in a single-file line. I arrived somewhere in the middle, wearing my super-cool Rod Laver tennis shoes, standard-issue white gym shorts, and a funky smelling white T-shirt. At the head of the line was the trainer for San Jacinto Junior High School. Little did we know at the time that we were walking in the steps of a former student by the name of George W. Bush. Looking back, I wonder sometimes how he ever lived through what happened next.
One by one the trainer weighed and measured each of us on a rusty old balance-beam physician’s scale. Then, in a rather dramatic fashion, he called out the name, weight, and height of each kid. The scene was a set-up for high drama of the first degree. Preteen boys will use any opportunity to humiliate another classmate. No doubt some of the world’s most notorious thugs were born out of the embarrassment they experienced in a seventh-grade gym class.
“Baker … 105 pounds, 5 feet even,” the trainer shouted. His voice lingered as sounds echoed from the walls. An assistant registered the information on a Big Chief tablet as though it were being recorded for an upcoming auction.
“Young … 119 pounds, 5 feet, 1 inch.”
Snickers erupted from the crowd. “Porky” and other such slurs were commonplace.
“Johnson … 85 pounds, 5 feet, 3 inches.”
“Hey stick,” someone yelled, “the girls weigh more than you!”
On and on it went until I was next. “Shupp … 141 pounds, 5 feet, 1 inch. First one to crack 140! Good job, son.”
Embarrassment started creeping over me as I heard the crowd of hecklers behind me. But it quickly subsided with his next statement. “Shupp,” he said, “go see the football coach.”
The next thing I remember was the opening game of the season against Goddard Junior High. I was a defensive lineman. The score was 0 to 42. We were the zeroes. Frustrations ran high. We were exhausted from chasing the running back into the end zone. Just perhaps, if we could score one touchdown, we could leave the game with our heads held high.
Close to the end of the game, Goddard’s receiver fumbled the ball. It bounced wickedly, eluding all players on the field—except me. Somehow it came to rest at my feet. I looked ahead, and there was a clear shot into the end zone.
There are rare moments in life when someone is destined to achieve greatness. All that’s required is the right opportunity and the appropriate action for the spark to ignite and set the world on fire. In such moments, time itself slows down. Temporal distortion seizes the senses. From the crowd, I could see the arms of moms and dads waving in unison. Through the quarter-sized hole in my helmet, the roar of the crowd reached my ears.
“Pick up the ball! Pick it up! Run!”
I looked at the ball. It was solitary, motionless. A wave of red and green jerseys began advancing on my position. In a surreal fashion, everything and everyone slowly faded out of my peripheral vision. I focused singularly on the ball. The sound of the crowd intensified.
“Pick it up. Run!”
My moment to shine had arrived. That dormant spark trapped somewhere deep within was about to blaze a glorious path to the goal line. Already I could see myself walking into school the next day. I envisioned cheerleaders surrounding my locker. Between classes and in the hallways, jocks were chanting my name out loud. I would tell the story repeatedly as often as I’m asked to relive it. I would be…
Suddenly, an offensive lineman fell on the ball. I had over-analyzed my moment. My chance for glory—vaporized. When the final whistle blew at the end of the game, there was a big donut on the scoreboard next to our school’s name.
Charlie Brown made a new friend that day.
Listen to Your Heart:
Do you have a heart for Jesus Christ? Allow me to tell you an amazing story.
In the mid-1970s, Larry Lawrence played quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As with most men in the NFL, Larry seemed to be superhuman. He was a prime physical specimen in peak condition. By 2003, however, because of a rare condition called “sticky platelet syndrome,” he needed a new heart.
On any given day in the United States approximately 3,000 people are on the official waiting list for a donor heart. But with only 2,000 donor hearts available each year, Larry faced the grim possibility that he might die before one was found for him. He needed two miracles, and he needed them soon: a healthy heart and a successful transplant.
Then it happened. Just three days after Christmas in 2003, the pager Larry carried began to vibrate. This could mean only one thing: Rush to the hospital immediately and prepare for surgery. A twenty-two-year-old organ donor had died suddenly from an untimely stroke. It’s a strange irony—and Larry understands this better than most—that his life would be spared by another man’s death.
The most unforgettable part of this story happened more than a year after the transplant. It’s somewhat rare for the donor’s family members to meet with the recipients of their loved one’s organs. But Kayree Turner, the grieving mother, wanted to see the man who had her son’s heart. Their first meeting and the broadcast interview to follow was scheduled to occur at a radio station in Midland, Texas. My friend, who happens to be a pastor, was there to witness the event.
Kayree did something quite unusual when she saw Larry for the very first time. As her tiny frame moved toward the former quarterback, she lost all sense of his personal space. Standing toe to toe, she cautiously leaned in, ever so close. Any mother can understand what she did next. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she turned her head sideways and placed her right ear on the left side of Larry’s chest.
And there she lingered, awkwardly. There she listened, intently. There she treasured each familiar sound of a faint echo—an echo resonating from within a stranger’s chest.
Then she looked up into Larry’s eyes and said, “I just wanted to hear my son’s heartbeat…one last time.”
At this moment, if someone listened to your beating heart, whose heart would they hear? Have you captured the heart of Jesus Christ? Is it pounding for Him? What about your mind? Does it think like the Carpenter from Galilee? And your eyes? Are they focused on the risen, returning King of Glory?
Excerpt from One Blinding Vision
The Miracle of Sand
Somebody typed these words into a search engine a few days ago, “Jesus, help me find a church in San Antonio.” Then they clicked on our church’s website. For the less tech savvy people out there, you might be surprised over how much information is passed along whenever you search online.
In any case, I was overjoyed that Google sent this person to our church webpage. I often pray that the Lord will send us hurting people who are searching for a loving community. Then I began wondering, “Can God uses Google’s algorithms to guide a person’s journey to the cross?” The answer arrived almost immediately in my spirit, “Yes!”
I believe that God numbers the hairs of our head each day, and long-ago fashioned every grain of sand in the sea. There’s a tremendous irony here. The silicon wafers that build our computer processors are made from basic molecules found in common grains of sand. In fact, silicon “sand” makes up 25% of the earth’s crust. The information age, computers, and even Google itself would have never arrived in our generation without sand.
So God made the sand that was fashioned into silicon wafers, that forms our computer processors, that enabled computer networking, that led to computer farms, cloud computing, and finally Google. Truly, God has left His footprints in the silicon. I hope she comes to our church. I’m also praying she will see the bigger picture.
Think about it.
On April 22, 1991, U.S. News & World Report announced that the Apostle Paul’s missionary travels marked the greatest “hidden turning point” in human history. For nearly 25 years I’ve kept a copy of this article in my files. I’m still amazed that a secular news magazine would make an admission such as this.
But consider that one man’s vision of Jesus Christ was powerful enough to disrupt culture, nations, and the course of human history. Could this happen again today? What if you and I captured a fresh vision of the risen Lord for our generation? The need for this has never been greater.
I wrote “One Blinding Vision” after immersing myself in the life of Jesus Christ. I prayed that God would knock me to the ground by the force of what I saw. He did not disappoint me. He stripped away all my preconceived ideas—what I’d been taught in seminary and had even preached from the pulpit for decades.
I discovered three elegant truths about the life of Jesus Christ that formed the heartbeat of His ministry. Afterwards, I was shocked by the state of cardiac arrest of His heartbeat in my own life. The Book of Acts clearly describes how the early followers of Jesus allowed their hearts to beat in tandem with His. How have we missed following the same Biblical mandate in our generation? The heart monitors are screaming at us!
From start to finish, bringing “One Blinding Vision” to publication has been one of the most exciting journeys of my life. I wrote this book because I believe the bride of Christ isn’t seeing Jesus very clearly at the moment. Our collective vision is so opaque. The average believer sitting in church Sunday after Sunday needs a fresh Damascus Road experience.
Perhaps you do too. Join me in “The Quest to See Jesus.” May the light blind you so perfectly that your eyes will be opened too. Read a sample chapter.
Purchase on Amazon
I just can’t get excited about the four blood moons. I did get excited about the “Late Great Planet Earth” as a kid, and the budding of the fig tree in 1987. Y2K and the Mayan calendar were yawners by comparison. Many sympathies to those fear-filled Christians who built bunkers and stuffed them with beans back in the day.
How silly we must look to non-believers with our failed prophecies and end-of-the-world how-to guides. Chicken Little’s, running around with missing, heads don’t inspire many to become as they are.
This year, so many believers will be filled with fear during the month of September: Watching CNBC, looking for geo-political hiccups in China; and ultimately, for the antichrist to emerge. I wish Christians would share more about the Good News than they do the bad. In fact, I believe we have a bad news problem among us.
I’ve read the whole Bible and I just can’t get excited about the four blood moons.
In fact, I would like to declare the month of September 2015 to be a month of Joy and Peace. Have more fun in Jesus this month than you’ve ever had before. Put more stuff in God’s hands than you’ve ever been able to release. Trust the Spirit to breathe life into your soul moment by moment.
OK, I’m off my soapbox now. Mark this post and share it on October 1st. If the world is over, then never mind. We’ll be walking barefoot on streets of gold and partying at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
You see, it’s all good!
Check out Who Killed My Church?
The life cycle of a church: Is your church a movement, monument, museum, or morgue?
James Shupp has recently published an interesting and informative novel, Who Killed My Church? about a dying church and its pastor’s last efforts to turn it around. This is a fictional story yet you’ll recognize the problems as the plight of hundreds of churches across the country. And Shupp writes from his own experience as a pastor of a once mega church trying to reclaim its glory and significance in the community.
With humor and great storytelling, Shupp takes the reader through the fictional Green Street Baptist’s struggle to reclaim its purpose and mission. If you have been involved in a church for any time at all, you’ll probably swear Shupp used members of your church as his characters and just changed their names.
In the story, the church hires a consultant to help the leadership come up with a plan to revive their church. Shupp lays out the seasons of a church, starting as a movement, slipping into a monument, then becoming a museum and finally dying at the morgue stage. As the consultant cleverly explains this to the leadership of Green Street Baptist,
All churches that began as a movement have a way of getting stuck in a moment. When this occurs, they transform into monuments that do little more than honor the past. Nostalgia can roll through a house of worship like a heat wave on a summer day. A church that collects too many of these monuments ultimately becomes a museum. There are pastors and staff all across America who feel more like curators of a museum than men and women of God with a fire in their bones. If this trend isn’t reversed, these churches will ultimately become morgues. The frozen chosen are always the last ones to turn out the lights. Don’t let this happen to you.
I’ve experienced the slow transition from movement to monument while on staff of churches and have coached churches that were in the museum stage. So I can attest that although the book is fictional, the story is relevant, compelling and inspirational.
Check out the chart from the back of the book. See if you can identify which season your church is in. If your church is a monument or museum can you return to being a movement? If so, how? See how it’s done in this wonderful book, Who Killed My Church?
Visit John Walters’ blog, It’s Your Calling.