Monday, December 27, 2004


The Shape of the Lamp

I've had too much experience with coaches. One size fits all, in their minds, and their job is to inflict embarrassment on any boy who doesn't fit. My only objective in gym classes was to get out with psyche intact.

Organizations take the same approach. People come in whole but have to trim off various parts in order to fit the ordained niches. You'd think churches would be different, but they're made of people who impatiently tell God what the people should be doing.

When a man took the stage at Highlander in 2003 and was introduced as "Coach," I knew I was in trouble. His job was to get the crowd fired up for the day's events and many of the men responded. I'd seen it all too many times before. Besides that, I had other things on my mind. I pretty much tuned him out.

A month later I got a strong hint that I'd sold this man short. He and his wife gave that Sunday's sermon on aspects of marriage and i could hear the voice of authentic experience in both of them. What really got my attention was the passion quietly contained in what Dave Mushegan said. Coaches aren't supposed to be quietly anything. Subtlety isn't in their vocabulary.

I didn't run into Dave again until he sent me an Email message in mid-June.

Anyway, I wanted to say how sad we were that you could not join us at highlander. Since I collect the money for the event, I am aware that in your kindness and generosity, you blessed the lives of many other men, by contributing above and beyond what was necessary. On their behalf, my I say a big thank you. Someone mentioned that the reason you did not attend was because you were going through a difficult time. I was sorry to hear that. I am praying for you, whatever the issue might be. I would be happy to encourage you in person, if I had your correct phone number. You can e mail me back if you like. But bottom line, YOU WERE VERY MUCH MISSED, and what ever the men at Mosaic can do to encourage you, please let me know. Your Friend In Christ, Coach Dave Mushegan

I was then in the middle of a very intense fight with God. The clouds over the future had parted for a time and I could see where the track of following Jesus led. I'd always known that his intent was my complete transformation and that was fine until I realized how deep he was going. Any further life with him would make me completely dependent upon his participation in my life. Naturally I, who had learned that only I could be trusted, started running as hard as I could.

What I wrote back to Dave wasn't all that nice. Self-censorship doesn't work very well when the writer doesn't care. I told him some details of why I didn't go to Highlander, and put in a few digs at the idea of coaching.

That he wrote back at all was a surprise, and the content was astounding.
Larry, thank you for trusting me enough to share your very deep feelings and thoughts. I am honored that you would take the time to write such a detailed response to me. Thank You so much.
Dave went on from there with some carefully chosen scripture and examples from his own life. What coach ever talked about his thoughts?

Over the next two months we corresponded and his quiet encouragement helped me settle down and understand that God's interest in my life wasn't to destroy me but to make me able to live his way. At the end of one message Dave signed off as "Ex-Coach Dave." No coach I'd ever run into before would do anything like that just to make someone he's talking to more comfortable.

God made all of us. Each of us is made in a particular way, and while the flame we produce comes from God's oil it is colored and shaped by the lamp itself. Those lamps that are close to the human ideal have no problem finding a place where they can burn brightly and call out to the world. Many are, however, of an unusual shape. A sensitive coach? Naturally, even in a church Dave has a hard time finding a place to shine. He has a strong passion for teaching but belongs to a church for which teaching comes last on the list of things a church should be.

Mosaic is, institutionally, much like my first Sunday as a Temple Slave. I got introduced to a couple of people and then they all left. I received no instructions, no hints of what to do. Being a Temple Slave is very simple compared to being a follower of Jesus. I just looked around the auditorium for the group that seemed busiest, walked over to them and introduced myself. A new Christian is overwhelmed with new things and has no idea where to turn for advice.

Well, that's not quite right. The new follower crosses the Jordan and immediately has tons of advice heaped up around him, and hears a hundred voices telling him what to do next. He needs someone to take his hand and lead him through the cacaphony, teach him what's important and what can be left for later. Very few of the advisors seem to understand that the key idea at the start is to build a relationship with the Living God rather than following a list of rules. Rules are easy to present in a step-by-step process but they don't lead to life. If you don't believe me, read the old testament.

Starting a relationship with God is a tall order for a newcomer from the east bank where the only time you hear God's name is in curses. The best advisor is one whose life shows God's handprint.

I'm very fortunate that Dave took the time to respond to my strange and intense Emailed messages. His gentle hand on the furiously bucking horse helped calm him down long enough for God's real message to get through: the objective of breaking is not destruction, but new life through stability that can be achieved only through the Holy Spirit's life inside. Depending on God is like leaning on a granite wall. I thank God that this Dave-shaped lamp lit up with some of God's truth I couldn't have seen any other way.

Merry Christmas, Dave! May God bless you so much that your flame runs Technicolor!

2004 December 25
Real World Evangel #3
Email to Blog failed
edited, rewritten and posted December 27

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