I’m not sure if that’s what I was thinking the day I stood at a crowded gas station filling my tank when a Madonna classic came booming through the speakers installed high above the pumps. I found myself bobbing my head while biting my lower lip, a place I’ve been many times before. If only my tank had filled sooner everything would have been OK. But the song that followed Madonna was by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. And it was during his patented high-pitched “he-he” that images of my friend Steve hovered above the overpriced gas sign, inviting me to express myself. The click of the pump’s nozzle in the full tank cleared my momentary day dream. But the song played on. After putting away the pump, I gripped the door handle to get in the car when I recognized this was my moment, one that I had both feared and longed for since that frightening day in the coffee shop. Like a Jedi Knight eager to please Obi Wan, I looked left, and then right, and took my step-of-faith. Actually, I moon walked the length of my car, stopped, and spun around. I refused to grab my crotch, but I did pretend to take off one white sequined glove, before strutting back to the car. Once the engine started I neither looked left or right. I drove away as fast as possible, hoping the people pointing in my direction were simply impressed with my car’s wax job.
I didn’t know whether to thank God or apologize, but I let out a scream of satisfaction and committed to never dance in public again. Hey, I talked about a step of faith, not complete humiliation.
Question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in public?Posted: January 30, 2013 | Author: gpfarah | Filed under: Personal | Tags: faith, jackson, madonna, michael, obi wan, risk | Leave a comment »
Check out this online conversation with John Burke!
John serves as the lead pastor of Gateway Church in Austin and is the author of the following books:
- Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others through the Eyes of Jesus -
Be sure to purchase this book on Feb. 1st HERE
For more on his new book, John writes:
“In my new book, Mud and the Masterpiece, I explore practical ways in which we can overcome Pharisee-like behavior to have Jesus-like impact on those around us. After studying every one of Jesus’ encounters to see what differentiated Jesus from the religious Pharisees, I’ve come to the conclusion that we won’t see the culture becoming followers of Jesus unless we first align our attitudes with those of Jesus. People can sense what’s in our hearts toward them—and that makes the biggest difference. That’s what Mud and the Masterpiece is about. First aligning our heart attitudes with those of Jesus, then our actions together as His body—so that we see Life Giving Life. Come help us spark a movement of Life Giving Life everywhere!”
Here’s more from www.johnburkeonline.com:
“MUD AND THE MASTERPIECE: Seeing yourself and others through the eyes of Jesus– What do you see when you look at the imperfect people around you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you tend to notice faults, failures, and moral shortcomings most? Or do you see the potential that God said was worth dying for, the Masterpiece hidden beneath the mud of sin in every person?
In this book, John Burke shares powerful lessons gleaned from every encounter Jesus had, challenging us to consider whether our attitudes and actions resemble Jesus or the Pharisees as we encounter messy people. Burke helps ordinary Christ-followers prepare in attitude and action to become God’s Masterpiece, and restore the messy world around them—just like Jesus did.”Posted: January 25, 2013 | Author: gpfarah | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: austin, Burke, gateway, John, Masterpiece, Mud | Leave a comment »
You know what’s risky today?
Becoming a parent. Offering an apology. Admitting a mistake. Celebrating another’s success. Not gossiping. Changing careers. Starting a church.
I personally discovered that it’s quite risky telling your in-laws you just quit your job so you could take their 15-month-old grandchild (their only grandchild) and their pregnant daughter across the country so you could start a church without any means to financially support yourself. Others have said taking a comedy class is a risk. I don’t think it’s nearly as risky as admitting you’re taking a comedy class, however.
But my list is different from your list. Risk your life today—or, better yet, invest your life today. Here’s a Top 10 list of random ways to make an immediate investment:
- Trust someone.
- Be trustworthy.
- Begin a relationship.
- Stay in a relationship.
- Begin counseling.
- Be willing to fail.
- Be honest.
- _________________ (fill-in-the-blank)
Living a safe, comfortable life can be the most dangerous thing you do. Risk your reputation and model a life of freedom. Mark Twain reminds us that, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Question: What are you going to risk today? This week?Posted: January 16, 2013 | Author: gpfarah | Filed under: Personal | Tags: freedom, grandchild, in-law, Mark, risk, Twain | Leave a comment »
I learned that taking a leap of faith without conditioning is difficult. So just like stretching, I started challenging myself to live on the edge by regularly taking baby steps of faith, as a way to keep me in a risk-taking mindset. As a result, I’ve begun listening to my iPod without first making sure I place the left headphone in my left ear and the right headphone in my right ear. Believe me, that’s a stretch. But it’s also a start. Another thing I do from time-to-time is answer the phone without first checking the Caller-ID. That’s down right daring. Remember the days when the phone rang and you didn’t know who was calling? It could have been anyone: sales call, wrong number, high school friend, boss, neighbor—I could go on and on. Caller ID has taken all the mystery out of life and robs us of potential excitement. There are times I choose poorly by answering the phone blindly, but that’s the cost of risk. And it can also be entertaining. Looking for a cheap date? Sit by the phone and answer it blind.
The Hebrew Scriptures reveal a myriad of faith stepping men and women whose willingness to take a risk defeated an army, prevented genocide, and preserved one’s integrity. And those scenes represent but a moment of time in three people’s lives.
David showed pride. Esther offered protection. Joseph preserved his integrity.
Pride. Protection. Preservation. Each of these historical figures took a risk and despite the challenges emerged stronger and more faith-filled. But don’t allow these extreme examples to intimidate you. You may not be challenged to save a people group from extinction this week, but you will likely be asked to wash some dishes, or run an errand, or tell the truth. Under certain circumstances these can feel just as fierce. Are you willing to take a risk and move forward?
Question: What baby step can you take today?Posted: December 30, 2012 | Author: gpfarah | Filed under: Personal | Tags: baby steps, caller ID, conditioning, genocide, integrity, pride, protection, risk, stretch | Leave a comment »
My head dropped back into the safety of staring at Steve’s feminine-looking shoes and I prayed, “Dear God, what had just happened?”
What happened was that I missed an opportunity to overcome my fear. I had a friend with me, willing to shield me from as much public humiliation as I could push aside, but I gave it up. I gave it up because I was afraid to fail. Have you been there? Have you stood on the edge of risk, wanting to jump, only to talk yourself out of it? Certainly common sense needs to prevail in some situations, but if you’re like me you let far too many opportunities go by because of ego—not critical components like finances or health—just reputation. We’re far more concerned with what other people will think than we are about taking advantage of new life experiences. Think back to the last time you were invited to do something out of your comfort zone or pursue one of your dreams. Did you take hold of the chance or are you plagued with memories of yet another missed opportunity?
The irony of risk is that my step of faith is likely easy for you and vice-versa. But that’s life. Some people are afraid of New York City. I’m not. I love New York. Sounds a lot like an 80’s marketing campaign, but it’s true. I’m comfortable and confident in most situations in the city. The country, however, is another story. On a recent trip to Israel, I followed a path through a field in Upper Galilee and came across a goat eating grass, or whatever goats eat. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. If I were at a zoo or in a car zooming past goats at 60 mph, I wouldn’t be afraid. But here I was, face-to-face with what I feared was the world’s first attack goat. You never know. I held my breath and spoke soft, friendly words to the goat in a gentle voice, while taking ever so determined steps away. I’m not sure if those seven steps away from the goat were more frightening than the ones at a comedy club, but I do know I kept turning around to make sure he wasn’t sneaking up behind me. I don’t have the courage to tell you what happened when the path was later blocked by a cow. I still wake up at night over that one.
What’s risky for you? What makes you shiver and causes you to shake your head in disbelief while exhaling, “I would never do that.” Sometimes it’s little things. For me, dealing with farm animals is definitely near the top of the list. But talking on the elevator is up there, too. I can fake a good conversation if one person is on, but I’m paralyzed when 5-6 are standing there. What do you do? Do you say nothing and watch the floor numbers change? That’s a strategy, but it’s still awkward. Even if you decide to look at your mail or readjust the way you’re holding your packages, you can’t get away from the fact that there are other human beings less than six inches from you standing in silence. Somebody say something. Please!
Question: What’s risky for you?Posted: December 20, 2012 | Author: gpfarah | Filed under: Personal | Tags: cow, fear, goat, risk, risky | Leave a comment »
Before I had time to bite down again on my lower lip and imagine teaching Justin Timberlake a few moves, Steve pushed back his chair. Except he wasn’t going to get a refill; he got up to dance. But this wasn’t a daydream—Steve controlled the room. He clapped and swayed in ways I’d only seen in my dreams. People looked up and gave their own enthusiastic head bobs, mouthing words of praise, affirming Steve’s coolness. I was in awe. But this wasn’t just a moment of fun. It wasn’t a teenage game of truth or dare where you might be forced to run into the middle of the street and moon oncoming traffic. This was a life lesson in risk management. Steve did not shimmy left, shimmy right and sit down. Steve danced for the remainder of the song—nearly two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds in a public meeting place.
My wide-eyed shock soon turned to all-out embarrassment when Steve grabbed my hand, inviting me to join him. I white-knuckled my chair. There was no way I was getting up. So Steve continued, cool and confident as always, but he wasn’t dancing alone. He was grooving with James Brown.
Steve continued to call out, telling me to feel the music, assuring me I had it in me, coaxing me to move with the groove. I thought I was going to be sick. I dropped my head to the table, my right hand shielding my face from being identified, while my eyes followed Steve’s girlie shoes. I thanked God when the song finally ended and slowly raised my eyes to determine whether it was safe to lift my head. At the same time, the barista came out from behind the counter and gave Steve a reassuring pat on his right shoulder and rewarded him with a muffin and a free refill. My head dropped back into the safety of staring at Steve’s feminine-looking shoes and I prayed, “Dear God, what had just happened?”
Question: Who is someone that encourages you to risk? Or challenges you?
The insanity began ten years ago in a coffee shop where my friend Steve and I enjoyed a moment of quiet during a youth retreat we were leading. I admire Steve. He exudes confidence. It’s never arrogance, just pure unadulterated comfort in who he is. I’ve always wanted to live my life with that kind of confidence. You can find people wearing just about anything in New York City and pull it off because they’re confident, just like Steve. The cool, hip shoes that men wear today? Steve wore them ten years ago. I was always too embarrassed to tell him they looked like girl’s shoes. But now, a decade later, girls ogle over men who would be so chic.
While Steve and I sat in the coffee shop, James Brown’s “I Feel Good” thumped through the speakers. Studies have proven that it is impossible to listen to this song by the Godfather of Soul without physically responding. So the fact that I could not contain myself is reasonable. I danced. Enthusiastically, energetically, and on the table! My hips thrust with such creativity I expected the police to burst through the door to arrest me while waiting for their triple-foam latte.
The irony of my pelvic push? No one noticed. Not a soul. Steve wrote in his journal, the hissing sound of steamed milk filled the shop, and a coffee rookie slowly and apologetically pronounced ‘ma-chi-a-to.’
The sound of grinding coffee beans woke me from my soulful daydream—nothing more than a dance fantasy. And as I disappointingly came back to reality, I found myself biting my lower lip, moving my head to the beat. In fact my chin led my head in rhythmic bobs: center-center, left-left, center-center, left-left, with an occasional shoulder twist thrown in off-beat. I’m sure it was quite pathetic. I looked up at Steve who noticed the sad “why do I have to be so white” look on my face. Feeling vulnerable I said, “Steve, I wish I could dance. I wish I had the ability to express myself. I think it’s in me. I just don’t know how to let it out.”
Before I had time to bite down again and dream of teaching Justin Timberlake a few moves, Steve pushed back his chair. (Too be continued . . . )
Question: What’s something you’ve tried because someone encouraged you to do so?
(Oddly enough, I want to learn this dance.)
We all need some risk in our lives, even if only to help us overcome fear. Of course, an American proverb reminds us that “It doesn’t work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps.” So it might be worth first thinking through some of the potential obstacles you might face before taking the leap. But don’t wait too long—don’t experience life like a frightened turtle inside your shell. Even slow, methodical steps are forward progress. That’s why standing on a 5×8 foot stage with a front row nipping at my ankles helps me not only gain confidence on Sunday morning but also in other endeavors throughout the week. But the only way to overcome risk is to take that first step, painfully long and oh so frightening.
I was fortunate to grow up in a family that encouraged participation. Whatever it was, they suggested I try it, claiming I had nothing to lose. I learned that nothing is gained by idly watching others enjoy what you dream of experiencing. Helen Keller writes, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Trust me, that quote isn’t effective when explaining to your wife—and mother of your three young children—why you went sky-diving during your lunch hour, but the quote makes a valid point. What, really, is security?
I’m a city boy and afraid of the woods, so Henry David Thoreau’s Walden experience frightens me. Thoreau’s experiment in simple living is not for everyone, but his risk-assessment proves true: “If a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive to begin with. A man sits as many risks as he runs.”
That’s why I force my legs to take those seven steps on Saturday nights. And it also explains why I dare to expand my horizon by taking syncopated steps from time-to-time. That’s right, I dance—in public—one of my seven greatest fears. This is significant when you realize that I cannot dance. If you’ve ever seen Elaine from Seinfeld on the dance floor, you have an idea of my capability. Dance is an additional risk factor for me, another area where I’m pushed to take a literal step of faith and hope to God that something positive will come from it. I’m not a good comedian, but having a sense of humor at least allows me to give comedy a shot. But dance? (To be continued . . . )
Question: What risky activity tempts you the most? (Comment below)
Stumbled across an old DVD visiting my friend Glenn. We’ve been friends for 30+ years and were going through boxes of memories when a not too distant memory appeared. The video below is the One Year Anniversary of Mosaic Manhattan Church—way back in 2004. Glenn and his wife Cindy helped start that church.
Gives me chills every time I see it. Good chills. Proud ones. Faith-filled ones. And mostly grateful ones.
Thank you to everyone who helped form this church, whether on staff, a regular attender, or an out-of-state supporter.
Thank you to Ryan and Brittany Holladay and everyone at Lower Manhattan Community Church for taking the baton and running with it. I love the new name and the amazing community you have formed.
God is good. And I am grateful.
Were you a part of Mosaic or now part of LMCC? If so, in the comment section below, share a Mosaic memory or reason you love LMCC.