Taking Risks

When I worked at Camp Calumet, I would host  youth weekends.  About 5-6 small youth groups would come to the camp to participate in Calumet run youth weekend.  I, as the retreat host would use Friday night and Saturday morning as an opportunity for group building….I would plan activities that enabled the kids to feel comfortable with one another, to strengthen their current relationships in their groups and establish new relationships with the other churches.

On Saturday morning I would take a big piece of chalk and draw a line on the floor.  I challenged the kids to cross that line and take a risk.  I would say “you are one of 80 teenagers at this retreat, you might know 10 others, I challenge you this morning to take a risk, cross this line and meet someone you don’t know.”  You know what?  Almost everyone of the kids did cross the line, they took a risk and it worked out well for them.

So my question for you today is…..Do you consider yourself a risk-taker?

In one of his books, Leo Buscaglia wrote that,”To laugh is to risk appearing a fool, to weep is to risk appearing too sentimental, to reach out for another is to risk involvement, and to expose feelings is to risk exposing one’s true self.  To place your ideas and dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss, to love is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk dying, to hope is to risk despair, to try is to risk failure.  But all risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

So much in our life is based on risk.  I know that I have opted out of certain opportunities in my life because I did not want to take the risk of hurt, failure, embarrassment or despair.  But I have also taken risks and I have been successful, happy and satisfied.

I also agree with Leo Buscaglia.  If, out of our fears, we refuse to risk, we also forfeit our freedom because only a person who risks is truly free. And, only a person who risks can grow, because all personal growth involves risk.

Where in your personal life are you drawing lines?  How can you cross them and take a risk?

This week, take a risk…..see what happens……

Staying Sane in the Midst of Insanity

A colleague asked me the other day.  “How do you stay sane in the midst of insanity?”  It seems our lives are filled with insanity and if we are not careful it is easy to get caught up in it!  A quick google search of the “phrase sane in the midst of insanity” revealed that there are a number of people searching for some kind of relief from the insanity in their lives.  I read posts from parent support groups to alcoholism support groups to the regular office worker trying to get by in his 9-5 job.

According to dictionary.com insanity means:  “the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind.”  Now, I think this definition could encompass many people suffering from many conditions.  So what is your “trigger point?”  What causes you to become insane or “crazy?”  I often to think of Homer Simpson when I think about someone going “crazy”

But then again there are lots of ways one can “go crazy” and more often than not we do not act like Homer and Simpson.

But when we feel like we are going “crazy” or start to become “insane” with trying to keep up with all the “stuff” in our lives we need help —  Then I begin to ask myself, where does my help come from?  Sure I have lots of support in my life.  I have my friends, my family and the community of the church that is there when I need them.  But for me it is more than that, my help also comes from the Holy Spirit which gives me power and courage to meet my daily challenges.

The Holy Spirit is there for you too, to help you face the challenges within your struggling marriage right now. …To face the challenges with your kids who may be driving you insane right now. … To face the challenges with your mother’s aging, your father’s aging……with their death. …To face the challenges with your aging and with your death. …

We watch as innocent lives are being taken around the world in war.   I weep at the injustice that so many people in our wold experience.  I see the strength of men and women who have hardships in their lives and yet they still move on and they not only survive but they thrive.  The only explanation that  I have is that when the Spirit is inside of you and the people around you, there is power, spiritual power and spiritual gentleness.

That spirit comes to us in our baptism.  Jesus was baptized not to get rid of his sins, but in order to carry our sins on the cross.  I don’t have to carry my past sins with me, my failures, my imperfections,  or my guilt. All the sins that I have done wrong and all the things that I haven’t done right are placed on his back, on his cross. Jesus is the one who carries the weight of sin. His baptism tells us he carries our sins the sins of the world.

I once read a story about a preacher who felt he was a gifted orator and had memorized Kipling’s poem, ‘If” for a high school thespian contest. The pastor recited the poem with great gusto.  He still remembered the poem and wanted to share it with his congregation.

“If you men can keep your heads when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, and make allowances for their doubting too.

If you men can wait and not be tired of waiting. …Or being lied about, not deal in lies….

Or being hated and not give way to hating.  Yet don’t look too good nor talk too wise. …

If you men can dream and not make dreams your master….If you can think but not make thoughts your aim. …

If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and meet those two imposters just the same. …

If you men can fulfill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds left of distant run.

Yours is the earth and everything in it. And what is more, you will be a man, my son.”

As the pastor recited this poem, the “thespian” in him choked with emotion. He was on the edge of tears and filled with deep feelings. There was a long silent pause. During that pause and silence, a voice from the back of the room piped up, “What if you can’t?”

We can ask ourselves that —  no matter what is said or done, “What if you can’t?” What if you can’t master your dreams? What if you can’t meet triumph and disaster just the same? What if you lose your head when everybody else around you is keeping theirs? What if you can’t trust yourself? What if you can’t wait? What if you are tired of waiting? What if you are a lousy parent? What if you are a failure in marriage? What then?  …

Then you hear the words that you have been baptized, and that all of your burdens and imperfections and disappointments have been loaded onto the back of Christ, that everything is put on the shoulders of the one who carries the cross on our behalf.

In your baptism, you hear the words that Jesus Christ carries the sins of the whole world.  It is Jesus Christ who helps us stay sane in the midst of insanity.   Because I know if I did not have Jesus in my life, things would be harder, life would be more difficult and I very well might not make it from day to day.

So how do I stay sane in the midst of insanity?  I rely on the one who carried my sins to the cross – Jesus Christ.