Archive for March, 2008

Campus Celebrity Connecting with his Culture.

-)Meet Sammy. We started meeting weekly last year, and shortly after we started meeting I realized that this kid had it. Sammy is a natural mover and shaker, and will meet anyone on campus. We had to move our weekly discipleship appointments to a place where we wouldn’t be distracted and I could bring this campus celebrity out of the spotlight. He first connected with InterVarsity through House on the Rock, our black campus ministry, but when the opportunity came to lead La Fe, he jumped at the desire. Sammy grew up in South Florida and has a Haitian mother and white father.

Hmmm…Wisconsin farm kid and Miami city boy. It has been interesting, to say the least. But as we’ve grown together, it’s been a privilege for me to walk with Sammy through different phases in life. He’s seen great success in ministry. He’s faithfully led our La Fe ministry, and God has grown the ministry and brought faithful and enthusiastic freshmen. At our recent Winterfest conference, Sammy led the entire large group in “body worship” and the La Fe students were very excited to be a part of it.

But Sammy doesn’t always succeed. He deeply desires to become a doctor who serves the marginalized in Haiti. He wants to get his grades up in order to get into medical school so he can be part of advancing God’s Kingdom in one of the most forgotten places in the world. Please pray for him – he continues to bless the campus, and wants to be a blessing to many others for the course of his life.

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Trusting God…and speaking to trustees

There are times where I meet students and I naturally gravitate to them.  Ryan was certainly one of them.

Ryan transferred to Northwestern when he was a sophomore and we met early on.  He’s of good Wisconsin stock, so we hit it off right away.  But as we talked, I saw a tremendously gifted young man who was going 10,000 directions all at once.  We sat down one day, and put all of the things he wanted to do on post-it notes on a table at the student union.  We filled the entire table.

Ryan and I walked around by the lake at Northwestern in the spring that sophomore year, and he was desperate.  He wanted to integrate his passion for reaching the lost with his passion for restoring a broken world.  He was going to Uganda to serve among the poor in the summer, and was considering going to our annual summer mission program to China through InterVarsity’s Global Projects.  I asked him, “Why don’t you go to China, Ryan? God can do more than you can ask or imagine, and maybe there is something that God wants to do with you through both projects?”  Sure enough, God transformed Ryan that summer and integrated his care for the marginalized and the reaching the lost.

Next year, around the same time, Ryan and I were walking around the lake again when he was considering the prestigious position of Global Engagement Summit Director as well as serving on InterVarsity’s executive leadership team.  He was weighing the options, and I let him know my bias on how I would love to work with him and see him flourish under my direction.  But I gave that up, and said I wanted to do what was best for him, even if that was not serving on our leadership team.  Ryan decided to do both, and the dividends have paid off tremendously.

Ryan recently spoke in front of the Board of Trustees detailing how Northwestern University could become the leading university in global engagement programs.  He brought the president’s wife to tears sharing the vision for what Northwestern could do for the world.  Ryan has grown so much from the scattered sophomore into a mature leader he is today, and every time I walk around the lake with a student I’m reminded of the holy ground it can be.

Ryan (center) and other friends at Greek Conference

A wanderer finding her way home.

You never know how God works sometimes.Students at Greek Conference

Every year I have students make a list of the top ten people they think would never come to a weekend conference. Libby showed up on two women’s lists.

But we prayed for that list back in October, including Libby. Libby had several friends in Greek-IV, but also some very complicated relationships as well. She had a very difficult past, and has experienced many things that women her age simply shouldn’t have had to endure. But after a few conversations with Ryan, Libby agreed to come to Greek Conference.

It was Saturday during the General Session where it hit. Libby felt very uncomfortable with some of the remarks that were said from the front, and stormed out of the general session and out of the hotel and was wandering around downtown Indianapolis by herself.

Ryan came to me, and it was written all over his face. He just didn’t know what to do, and he was dejected. He told me what happened, and I didn’t know what to do either. So, I did what I do when I run out of answers. “Well, maybe we should pray. My friend Kristina is really gifted in praying for others. Let’s see what happens.”

So Ryan, myself, and two other women prayed for Libby after lunch. The students had never experienced anything like that before – they prayed with real tears, and it was clear that the Holy Spirit was present and revealing things to these students that they had never experienced before. We prayed for Libby.

Throughout the rest of the day, things began to change for Libby. She’d never experienced peace like she had after she went back to her room after her jaunt through downtown Indy. While she still had lots of questions about God, she wasn’t questioning the experience she was having. It was a peace that had eluded her for years – not since she was a little girl did she feel this amazing presence of peace. It was simply unexplainable.

That night, Libby told her sorority sisters she wanted to be considered a Christian. Libby is still looking for the peace, but is finding it in the truth of God’s Word as she reads the psalms and is consoled by the honesty of the people of God. It was something she was looking for, and it was her friends that helped bring her to Jesus.

My childhood is officially over…or what I learned from Brett Favre

I’ve dreaded this day for years. It’s loomed on the horizon, I’ve seen it coming, but I still wasn’t as ready as I thought. My brother called to tell me. My dad called less than a minute later.

Brett Favre announced his retirement, and my childhood has officially ended.

There’s a lot of discussion now about Brett’s place in history, his records, and his legacy. The talking heads have talked for hours and will talk for hours about Brett’s decision. I avoid this kind of conversation – it’s a lot of mindless chatter and empty words.

For those of us who grew up as kids watching Brett play, we’ll be avoiding the talking heads. Their tirades and rants and clamoring for sound bites really just fly in the face of what we adored most about Favre – not emptiness, but substance. Words that came from the depths and not the shallows. He never had to talk about integrity, because we all knew it was there. People of integrity don’t need to talk about it.

In my opinion, Brett probably isn’t the best quarterback of all time. But he was the best leader ever to put on football pads. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, and in reflecting on his sixteen seasons in Green Bay I’ve realized he taught me more than I imagined.

We put on pads together in Wisconsin for the first time together; he as a washout from Atlanta, I as a 130 pound-soaking-wet freshman cornerback at Edgerton High School. When he took over the reigns from Don Majkowski in that now-historic comeback against the Bengals and a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Kittrick Taylor. September of 1992 was the last time someone other than Favre started for the Packers. He started 275 straight games since including playoffs. My college students I work with now were literally in diapers when someone else was quarterback of the Packers.

You’ll hear the stories. He wasn’t even recruited as a quarterback in college. He made it at Southern Mississippi, and nearly lost it after a near-fatal car crash (but he did lose 30 inches of intestine.) He was drafted by Atlanta, but was so out of control he didn’t even make the team picture. But it was his raw talent and leadership that the then-general manager of the Packers, Ron Wolf, saw and wanted. He failed the physical, but Wolf told him to change the report and pass him.

We learned you don’t give up on someone at first glance.

He got a fresh start in Green Bay as a young punk who didn’t even know what a nickel back was, and was assigned the cool and sophisticated Mike Holmgren from San Francisco as his new mentor. Holmgren came from the gold standard of quarterbacks in San Francisco, where cool and super-smart Joe Montana was the prototype quarterback and the gifted and intelligent Steve Young was a back-up.

Brett wasn’t super-cool or super-smart. He was FAR from sophisticated. He showed up for press conferences in cut off t-shirts and sandals, and his locker room flatulence is the subject of many Wisconsin boys sleepovers. He’d fart in the huddle to take the edge off of his teammates. But beyond the stuff that made us high school boys laugh, Favre reeked of raw and real emotion that brought the beauty into celebration. When he threw a touchdown pass, he ran down and tackled his teammate. Or put him on his shoulders. It was real, unscripted celebration – like leaping into the stands and partying with the a few of the 60,000 team owners.

We learned what celebration was like, and what was worth celebrating.

While Brett was wild and crazy on the field, early on he was wilder and crazier off it. His episodes at Green Bay bars were just as legendary, and just as the stakes were raised on the field as the team won, the bar was raised when it came to partying off the field as well.

And Brett bottomed out. Our beloved leader admitted he had a problem – so much so that he checked himself into rehab. He spoke openly and honestly at a press conference about his addiction to pain killers and alcohol. His two best friends and teammates said it would no longer be beer and pizza with Brett; it would be Coke and pizza. Reggie White said he’d be there for Brett, no matter what. His then girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Deanna, told him that he needed to get his act together or it was over.

We learned that when we need help, we need both faithful friends and tough love.

Brett came back and he and Reggie led the Packers to the Super Bowl. I watched the game in my fraternity house in Chicago, so intensely tied to the game that I locked myself in my room alone to focus and my fraternity brothers messed with me by going to the circuit box and shutting the power down to my room. I came out and with one look, they turned it back on. I would NOT be missing this game.

We learned that adversity causes some to break, but it causes others to break records.

He’d continue on and fight through more emotional adversity and physical pain. The death of his father, his brother-in-law, Deanna’s breast cancer, Katrina wiping out his family home, the conviction of his friend and teammate Mark Chumra, the death of Reggie, and the list goes on. He played the most critical position in sport through broken thumbs, sprained ankles, separated shoulders, bad elbows, concussions, strained knees, a broken heart, and the list goes on. But he kept playing through, kept working, and was always faithful not just to show up, but to give his best. He always competed to win.

We learned that adversity doesn’t end when the good times start.

We learned that sorrow and joy intermingle throughout life, and we need to show up and keep playing.

A lot is always said about his childlike exuberance in how he played the game. But when you see what he went through, Brett made a decision to choose to be in touch with reality that life can be good. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with the tragedy and pain in life. To truly mourn disappointment, pain, and even death is hard work.

We learned to choose to enjoy life no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

People said Brett seemed to be losing his edge as he got a little older. The talking heads said he couldn’t play any more. Brett would mention one or two words about retirement, and the talking heads would put up a circus tent and start acting like the monkeys in it. In 2005, he had his first losing season ever. He took inventory of his team, and said it was the most talented team he had ever been around in his already storied career. Favre decided to stay. People said he was getting loony in his old age. He took the youngest team in the NFL for the next two seasons and ended playing the best football in his life.

We learned that talking heads see what they want to see, but what matters is what really is.

We learned it is important to discern and decide to whom to listen.

In his final lesson he’s taught us, Brett said he was physically fine and he could play the game. It was that the mental preparation part of the game is what is truly most important, and while Sunday was great, Monday through Saturday is what makes Sunday so great. Brett realized this as much as anyone, and he knew his heart wasn’t in it anymore. And we learned it’s important to do the hard work of reflecting on ourselves, of self-examination, and come out and say it.

We learned that there is a right time to say when we’re done.

He grew up in front of us, and taught us that how he played the game is a good way to live. He taught us we will all make mistakes and walk into adversity, but how you respond to them is what counts. He taught us that gray hair doesn’t mean you’re old, and that boyhood doesn’t have to end when the gray hair begins. He taught us that joy is a choice we face every day, and excellence over time requires perseverance and toughness. And he taught us that real men smile and cry when something matters.

If Brett Favre is a modern day Peter Pan, then I’m one of the Lost Boys.

Waiting and hoping. Hoping and waiting.

I’m at the airport while writing this. I’m waiting.

Waiting bothers me; I’m really bad at it. I’m slightly better at blogging than waiting, which isn’t much to say about my blogging prowess.

In what seems like a previous life, I used to work as a construction project manager. I told big burly men with power tools what to do and where to go. And because of my white hard hat said I was in charge, they listened to me. And if they weren’t working on the job, and it wasn’t break, they were waiting.

In construction, waiting is the enemy. Waiting was what holds up a project from completion. And that will get you fired. So everyone knows you need to look busy when the white hard hat is on the construction site.

I studied project management theories to talk about waiting as the enemy so I could sound smarter. In one theory, the critical path was the set of successive activities that must be completed in order for the project to be completed in the duration promised to the client. Another theory views that critical path as the primary constraint to the completion of the project – so when you apply more workers or resources to the critical path, the constraint was released and the burden of the critical path was no longer on that set of activities.

Sounds smart, doesn’t it?

It did to big burly men with power tools and executive clients in suits who signed my paycheck, so it was smart enough for me. To them, I was a smart, highly productive machine.

I believed them.

So I thought about more ways to make my waiting “more productive.” One summer I took the train because it was cheaper, better than sitting in Chicago construction traffic, and I could do more work on the train than I could in the car. I had a really cool organizer gadget that helped me do all my stuff and I needed to do. I had a laptop computer if I really wanted to open it and work on the train. And I could read books I liked on the train as well.

Then I was really productive because I conquered the enemy, waiting. I ruled.

But here in the airport, I’m on standby. I don’t rule anymore; I’m ruled by the airline people wearing cheesy uniforms. I’m subject to their authority. I hope they don’t make me one of them. I don’t know what flight I’ll be on, let alone when I’ll be arriving at my destination. Really, I’m blogging now because I can’t stand the waiting and being ruled by the cheesy uniformed people.

Now I’m hungry. Waiting makes me more aware of being hungry, because I’m not busy with anything else. Being on standby, I’m able to familiarize myself with the O’Hare Airport cuisine. I look at the menu prices. Maybe that I’m not that hungry.

The intercom system tells me that the terror threat level is orange. Should I be nervous? Hasn’t the threat level been orange since they introduced the system in 2002?

Cheese. Hungry. Orange. Mmmm…what are my favorite orange cheesy foods? Mmmm…cheetos. I love cheetos. But at overpriced O’Hare I think the orange fingers just aren’t worth it.

These are the kinds of thoughts I have while waiting. Do you see why I don’t like waiting?

A woman next to me is speaking in Spanish. I’m trying to hear what she is saying, but it’s been entirely too long since I sat in Spanish class in high school. The flight attendant tells us the flight is delayed in both Spanish and English. She speaks more slowly, and I can hear her say “lo siento, tienen esperar,” ‘I’m sorry, you have to wait.’

Esperar – to wait. Interestingly enough, “esperanza” means hope in Spanish.

What does waiting have to do with hoping? What does hoping have to do with waiting? Why are they nearly the same word in one of the most spoken languages on the planet?

Maybe waiting is like hunger. My craving for food reminds me that food does indeed exist. I’ve had food before – and it is good. And the hunger I feel reminds me of the times I’ve really enjoyed food – with my family and friends. And I hope I will have it again someday.

Waiting does something to me. It makes me realize that much of my life is filled with doing things that distract me from facing the all too difficult and sometimes shallow self that can be covered by my busyness.  Waiting is a furnace that burns off the chaff and allows a refiners fire to shape us.

At the same time, Proverbs tells us that hope differed makes the heart sick; waiting too long makes hope become dream, dream to become legend, legend to become myth, and myth to be forgotten.  When is it appropriate to give up hope for our dreams? Do we keep waiting in hope, or do we move on to something else?

How do I hope while I wait? How do I wait while I hope?

 


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