Thursday, January 3, 2008



~ The thrill of flying down a mountain on skis with the sun and wind hitting your face.

~ Gorgeous vistas only possible at these elevations. (This photo was taken on a ski summit at a little over 13,000 feet overlooking the Loveland Pass in the Rocky Mountains).

~ Enjoying the day with my family on the slopes filled with new memories and comfort zones.

The list sounds a little like a MasterCard commercial that ends with the word ... Priceless. In some ways it was.

Yesterday we spent the day skiiing and snowboarding as a family in the Rocky Mountains. It was a rare opportunity and gift. My sons ventured onto snowboards for the first time and tore it up. My daughter was awesome on skis. It felt great for my wife and I to be back on the slopes together. It was a day of awe and worship.

The conversation in the car on the way home was animated and interesting. One of my kids said "What a great day! It pushed me beyond my comfort zones, which is good for me." Another said, "I realized that one of the secrets of skiing and snowboarding is confidence. When you hestitate you fall. You just have to relax and go for it." I loved where the conversation was going. I was thrilled for their new discoveries about skiing - and life.

Successful downhill skiing is counter-intuitive. For example, there is the importance of putting your weight on your downhill ski. Everything in a new skiier wants to keep the weight on the uphill ski. It sounds safer and less risky. It is also the sure fire way to go nowhere, or more often, to become intimate with the snow! It leads those who keep doing it to ask "is this all there is?" Making a turn with your weight on your downhill ski feels more risky at first. It aims you, at least for a moment, straight down the hill. However, it is in that risk one gains momentum and direction. As my son said, "you just have to relax and go for it."

The exilaration of life and following Jesus is similar (John 10:10). Our inclination is to put our weight on the uphill ski of self-preoccupation and self-preservation. Everything in us and around us promotes what one author called "self-addiction." Those who keep putting their weight on this uphill ski go no where, or worse. It also leads people to ask "is this all there is?"

Jesus said counter-intuitive unexpected things like "The Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve and to give himself as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). He later said "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15).

Mark Labberton has done a marvelous job in his new book The Dangerous Act of Worship to call us back to the urgent neighbor-loving world-changing worship rooted in God's radical and freeing love. It was recalibrating for me as I begin this new year. In his final chapter he challenges all of us who put our weight on life's uphill ski:

The consequence of this unshakable love of God is that it sets us free from the compulsion we have to protect and provide for ourselves, so instead we can turn our hearts and energies toward others. When we are held by the unbreakable lifeline of Jesus Christ, we can reach out to others. ...

Jesus says wake up! ...
  • Are we ready to live life in God in our town, or do we still insist on living in our town and try to fit God in? .
  • Are we willing to let the gospel do the deep redefining work of establishing us in our new humanity, or will we only let it do a little sprucing up?

The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton, pages 182-184

Putting our weight on the downhill ski is an intentional choice - on the slopes and in life. It is the only way to experience the thrill of flying down the mountain with the sun and wind hitting your face. It is the only way to experience gorgeous vistas only possible at these elevations. It is the only way of making new memories and comfort zones. It is the only way to follow Jesus and live the life we were created for.

How will your new year be intentionally different? What does keeping your weight on the uphill ski of your life look like? What would it mean to put your weight on the downhill ski of radically trusting Jesus in this new year? What would it mean for a community of Jesus followers?

As my son discovered again: relax and go for it!


What do you think? Please click the comments link 6 to leave yours.


Merl said...

Reading lots of Lesslie Newbiggen lately and (together with involvement in emerging church model fellowships with the boys' worship homes, Alpha, 210, and Calvin Crest board, I'm beginning to detest the way Church has become a "Club" much like the Pharasees turned local Jewish meeting places into places where everyone had to look, think, act, etc. the same in order to "belong."

God incarnated didn't see His people that way. And the Neal Cole/Matt Brown/Matt Hammett/ Erwin McManus/ Theater Church church doesn't either. FPC Visalia is being moved RAPIDLY by the Spirit in that direction and, although we have to care for the old "club-people" in the pews, we're moving quickly to a more missional model where "brick & mortar" & "programs & head-counts" means a lot less than outreach.

alaurable said...

Nooooo!!! Why-oh-why do you challenge me so?!? I LIKE my uphill ski! I LIKE my cozy, warm comfort zone! If I just lean back and don't go very fast, maybe I can just ski below the radar and not be asked to serve or to participate in any of those pesky fellowship groups. Dag nabbit, Wayne!!!

In all seriousness, however, I do firmly believe this "uphill ski" thing is our crutch for not seeking involvement in the church body. If we just lean back on that ski, seeking the safe route, we will miss out on the joy and intimacy the comes from "the risk" of stepping out of our comfort zones and getting involved in our church families.

It's all too easy to just attend each week, waiting for someone else to step forward when a need arises. All too easy to stick with the comfort phrase of, "Oh, that's not my gifting. I'll wait until there's a need that's more in line with my gifting." If we are here to serve, and a need arises, doesn't a true servant step forward (or "lean forward" to continue w/ the ski analogy) regardless of personal gifting? It's good to be "pushed beyond my comfort zones."

And, what's the worst that can happen?!? A "yard sale" for Jesus! Yeeeeehaw!!!

Gary Sweeten said...

Risky living and risky church leaders are rare. Risky skiing is mostly for the young who have less to lose. Seasoned Believers and Seasoned Organizations want to minimize their risks. I prefer skiing on my Wii.