Below are new Young Life discipleship resources that can help both church and parachurch ministry leaders 1) focus and synthesize a discipleship framework, 2) generate conversations about discipleship and discipling, 3) self-reflect on their own life of discipleship, 4) envision ongoing spiritual growth in those they are discipling.
[Nov 17, 2018: Purdue Football Senior Day, the final home game at Ross-Ade Stadium for all those players who graduate this December or next May. Also Day 3 of National Youth Worker’s Convention, St. Louis. In other words, my heart is divided across state lines.]
Graduation is a big deal. No more classes. No more quizzes. No more exams. No more grades. No more oral presentations. No. More. Group. Projects.
But also: no more college football. And for college football players, the final whistle of that final home game will carry a deep well of memories and experiences that can’t be weighed.
For college football fans, the final whistle of that final home game will carry its own deep well of memories and meaning, shaped by circumstances and context.
In the fall of 2017, my “ENGL 264 – Bible as Literature” roster at Purdue University included 25 amazing college students, aspiring to be nurses, engineers, teachers, managers, artists, agricultural specialists, social workers, pilots, and physical therapists.
They were, each and every one of them, wonders to behold (which is exactly how I feel about middle school students as well, an unexpected miracle of my inner-wiring bestowed upon me by my Creator).
Among those 25 wonders were two young men on the Purdue football team – a system and community that had for several years weathered what we might call turbulent times.
David Blough (#11, QB) and Kirk Barron (#53, Center) sat side by side in the far corner of my classroom on day one (far corners being prime real estate on the first day of class: from first-hand observation, I tell you that it is possible for 25 college students to all find far-corner seats in a room that has only four corners, which is a testament to their creativity and tenacity).
Having football players in one’s favorite class – when one is a hard-wired football freak and when said football team has just hired a new football coach to (in the words of King David) pull the program out from bottomless pits of miry clay – might perhaps result in Boilermaker football reascending the rungs of one’s passion-ladder (not to the very top, obviously, since the very top spots of my personal passion ladder is occupied by Narnia, Middle Earth, and napping, a reality for which I am finally old enough and content enough to offer no apologies or explanations: I read, I nap, I aspire to be Narnian and Elvish, and I love football).
As a general rule, I truly enjoy not just teaching but also knowing my students. It’s the overflow of my Young Life and youthworker self.
So last fall, I enjoyed not just teaching but also knowing 25 wondrous students, including David Blough and Kirk Barron.
After many years of not inhabiting Ross-Ade stadium on autumn Saturdays (which followed many years of faithfully inhabiting Ross-Ade stadium on autumn Saturdays), my husband and I climbed aboard the train (metaphorically) once again, attending home games, cheering on a team that was starting to emerge from the fog and find its collective feet. We did this because we knew certain players, and knowing people changes everything.
We cheered when they won, and when they lost – because there is always something to cheer (even when some refs botch calls and certain opponents are dirty rotten stinkers).
We roared with delight when face-painted fierce Barron stalked the sideline rousing his teammates and when fleet-footed fierce Blough launched breathtaking passes that connected with receivers.
We moaned with despair when Barron’s rousing roars came up short and when Blough was loaded into an ambulance with a thoroughly destroyed ankle.
We watched with joy when, after a stunning recovery and rehab by Blough, they once again both walked out to the coin toss, flanking pint-sized football fans who were special guests of honor.
We wept along with the world as they befriended, encouraged, and prayed with Tyler Trent, a young man who defies all worldly explanations of life and love and hope.
And today, we will proudly watch Barron and Blough run onto that field one last time, walk to center-field for the pregame coin toss one last time, give and take the opening snap one last time, play as a team-within-a-team one last time, and (we all hope) put up a “W” at Ross-Ade Stadium one last time.
Football is a funny thing. Some people hate it. Some people ignore it. Some people worship it. Some people bleed it. And some people simply and inexplicably love it.
I am of the latter ilk. I simply and inexplicably love football, which, being a bookish, academic, PhD-ish, theological, ministerial, Middle-Earthian, Narnian kind of person, is rather odd and unexpected.
But much of life is odd and unexpected. We can be confounded by it, or we can joyfully take it and run with it (metaphorically, that is – as a general rule and daily practice, I vehemently oppose and doggedly avoid running).
Today is a celebration for and about many people.
But these words right here are a celebration of two particular young men who in some odd and unexpected way have become “my” players for these past two years – the two players I watch most carefully on the field and on the sideline, the two I cheer for most enthusiastically, and the two I know most personally. And that last one, I would argue, is the most significant thing.
When you know people, things matter in different ways and to different degrees.
Knowing is the secret sauce of almost everything. Not knowing about, but knowing.
I know, in small ways and in small degrees, David Blough and Kirk Barron. They make me proud. They make me laugh. They are men worth knowing.
Today, I celebrate them. I hope the final whistle of this final home game brings them not just a victory but also joy, energy, excitement, anticipation, and wild hope for all that lies ahead.
[Note: When a writer steps away from writing, for whatever reason (and there are usually several, and at least some of the several are usually very real and true), it is hard to step back into it for the simple reason that writing is work. Hard work. Fly-in-the-ointment work. Day-in-day-out-nose-to-the-grindstone work. No matter how much it is embedded in one’s blood, bones, heart and breath. But: it is good work. Glorious work. Real work. Meaningful work. True work. And so writers – if they step away, when they step back – must always step back into the work again. Because they can’t not. Because they must. It’s just a matter of when. Today, for example…]
It’s a big year for Lewisians across the world.
Today a new-found old letter hits the auction block. I read about it here first, on a delightful blog I discovered during my stepped-away-from-writing season.
The letter is delightful for several reasons.
It’s addressed to “My Dear Grittletonians.” We should all live in a world of such places and people.
You can see where Lewis’s fountain pen ran low on ink.
He capitalizes Sea Serpent and Dragon, indicating their true is-ness.
He specifically refers to three completed and four upcoming books as a unified series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
He writes about some of his favorite books, all of which would be found in the children’s section of a library, but which for him were never categorized by age.
He adds a P.S about more favorite books, because that kind of list has no end.
He talks about what he did when he was a boy, as though it were a vivid and recent memory.
He writes to children as though they are full-fledged human beings, i.e. he takes them seriously.
He crosses out a mistake in his writing.
And – perhaps most wondrously gratifying of all to those of us Lewisians who are book-order purists – he makes it unequivocally clear that the sixth book that “will go right back to the beginning and explain how there came to be that magic wardrobe in the Professor’s house” – i.e. The Magician’s Nephew is absolutely and intentionally and authoritatively the sixth, not the first,book in the series.
You can imagine how satisfying this is to people who’ve known it all along – known it not just in their own bones, but known it based on all the internal evidence of the books themselves (a critical literary practice that Lewis himself holds in high esteem).
But this new-found old letter is not the only Big Lewis News of the year. There are also two new-found old articles that have heretofore never been collected or anthologized. I don’t remember where I first got wind of these, but there were hints in the Lewis-sphere that The Strand Magazine might contain articles by Lewis that were not yet indexed in Lewis collections.
Happily, my research institution maintains copies of Strand Magazine in its expansively mysterious repository. And after much dusty digging, sorting, and page-flipping, I found these:
“A Christmas Sermon for Pagans” will sound familiar to anyone who has read Mere Christianity and De Descriptione Temporum. The language, phrases, and ideas are recognizably Lewis. “Cricket’s Progress” is another thing altogether. Did Lewis – who wrote other things under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton – care about cricket? Did he hanker to be a sports writer? I haven’t pored over this article enough to make any sense of what’s going on, but I do find vague hints of Puddleglum in this narrated Cricketer’s quote:
“It’s a great game, but fast bowling takes too much out of a fellow,” he told me. “You want to be a nice, steady all-rounder, good for thirty years’ service…Keep one eye on the ball and the other on the future, and you’ll be all right. And above all, never let them get you down.”
It does rather sound like our favorite wiggle, doesn’t it?
“I’m not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say – I mean, the other wiggles all say – that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’ they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this – a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has even seen – will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”
In a fascinating twist of literary nuance, the final page of “Cricket” features a footer quote by G. K. Chesterton. Curious indeed.
All of that to say – a new-found old letter and two new-found old articles are no small thing in the world of Lewis. And though there have been many, many reasons and moments and means to step back into the world of writing, these have proven to be the golden ticket.
In Lewis’s own words to the Dear Grittletonians:
“Do you write stories yourselves? I did at your age. It is the greatest fun.”
Or, modified for this specific juncture of life:
“Do you write? I do. It is the hardest work. And the greatest fun.”
Just like that, the Twelve Days-Nights of Christmas come to an end.
What, then, comes next – after the celebrating, reflecting, and remembering?
Perhaps we ought to live a Twelve-Days-of-Christmas life, in which we over and over contemplate the miracle of newness, the challenge of change, the trials of repetition, the joys of duplication, the power of obedience, the call to maturity, the charge to live joyous lives of hope.
Go back and contemplate the First Night through the Eleventh Night. Find the words that soothe you, push you, chafe you – and read them, think them, digest them. There is something we can all learn from days one through eleven.
And on this day – this twelfth and final day – let’s look ahead at a road that goes ever on and on, headed towards what we sometimes know but other times can’t see, towards what we sometimes anticipate but other times dread.
For a Christ-follower (those who choose the way in which the grown-crucified-resurrected babe’s footsteps lead), that particular road leads to deep, full, grown life — a life that is immersed in hope even when it drips with pain; a life that is infused with Love even when it is bloated with self; a life that is incarnated by the spiritual even when it is tied to the natural; a life that moves ever on and on — assuming we pick up our feet, set our faces forward, and walk.
Will I? Will you? Will we?
The world needs people who will trod that road daily, faithfully, humbly, joyfully, intentionally, boldly, quietly, long after the Twelfth Day-Night of Christmas.
Tomorrow is the First Day of the After-Twelfth-Day of Christmas. May we meet walking together on the road that Emmanuel has paved for us.
‘Tis Christmas night eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1).
For the first time in the twelve-day Christmas numerical celebration, we face repetition.
One (1). And another one (1). [Though one (1) of the ones (1)s is really a ten (10)…]
But we have already had a one. And a ten (which includes a numerical (1) one).
**Corporate communal confession: we love newness, updates, next-best-things. We do not love the same-old-same-old. And what is “11” – (one-another-one) – but a visual reminder of same-of-same-old-repetitive-not-newness? 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11.
Can we shift (seismically) from a “same-old-same-old-monotonous” mindset to a “known-beloved-tradition” mindset: from a “something-bigger-better” palate to a “remember-repeat-savor” palate?
Can we settle into a place of wonderment and joy about the day-in-day-out repeated elements of meaningful life?
Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1) reminds me that duplication in daily life isn’t something to be avoided at all costs.
Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1) challenges me that in the end, duplication is what God’s children are called to: that is, sharing the good news of Christmas (and its fuller narrative) with others so that they too may become a person who loves and follows Christ.
Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1). Daily beautiful repetitive earthly life.
Eleven (11) one-another-one (1-and-1). Daily beautiful duplicating eternal life.
‘Tis the tenth night of Christmas. Ten. One-zero. A full and finished number. Completeness. Double digits.
In the universe of old math:
For arithmetic, we start to carry numbers when we enter the world of double digits.
For subtraction, we start to borrow numbers when we enter the world of double digits.
For multiplication, we start to carry and cross and shift numbers when we enter the world of double digits.
But for life, what happens when we hit double digits? When our tasks, schedules, and responsibilities move beyond simple and straightforward single-digit-ness? When our wisdom, understanding, and discernment must follow suit with growth, depth, and expansion?
Do we panic? Do we forget how the numerical functions work? Do we freeze, tangle, lose our way? Do we carry when we should borrow, borrow when we should carry, cross in the wrong order, shift in the wrong direction?
As numbers grow in size, the options expand. So it is with us. We move beyond the simplicity of Ninth Night living – of wake, rise, eat, feed, bathe, eat, work, rest, feed, eat, sleep, repeat.
We are now grown. We are now double-digit-ed. And so our interactions, communications, relations, formulations, and adorations must move to the next frontier of mathematical faith functions.
We must begin to embrace complexity with care, joy, and anticipation. We must grow up. We must grow out. We must grow down.
It is the tenth night of Christmas, giving us a peek of a double-digit life. View it not as a chore or weight or inevitability. Rather, view it as the culmination of a Christmas well begun, for the double-tens of St. John’s Gospel remind us that Emmanuel came to give life in abundance. Our job is to embrace it and live it.
(John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I am come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. RSV)
What happens now? When the celebrations are over, the parties are past, and the excitement has settled into everyday-everynight life?
The baby’s been born. The angel’s have proclaimed. The shepherd’s have visited. The baby’s been marked as a chosen child of God. The child’s been named.
Seemingly the momentous and miraculous elements are done and past. Now it is time to find our own way – to wake, rise, feed, bathe, eat, rest, work, feed, eat, sleep, repeat.
But how do we repeat the daily mundane (over and over and over and over and over and over) when there are no more angelic choruses? no more heart-stopping first breaths? no more heavenly pronouncements of good news for all the earth? no more supernatural visits? no more Emmanuel?
Ah: Think. Listen. Reason.
Even if the angelic choruses, first breaths, heavenly pronouncements, and supernatural visits are past, this will never pass:
God with us. God as us. God for us. God in us.
Though he arrived at a specific moment in time, he still is. He still is God. He still is here. He still is Emmanuel.
And that means there is no such thing as everyday-everynight meaningless mundane life.
If Emmanuel, then rejoice.
If Emmanuel, then life.
If Emmanuel, then hope.
If Emmanuel, then love.
Night nine is not the ninth cycle of the same. It is a new cycle, just as each day and night is … because Emmanuel.
I wonder if Mary slept on this night – the night when her tiny babe perhaps whimpered and wept in lingering pain.
On this day, her babe was circumcised, formally marked as a Jew, one of God’s chosen people.
God himself, marked as belonging to himself. Our faith is a paradox in countless ways.
On this day, her babe was named, formally identified as Yeshua bar Joseph. Jesus, son of Joseph. His earthly name for his earthly identity, which was fully him.
But also this: Christos, the only begotten of God. Messiah son of God. His essential name for his divine identity, which was fully him. The paradoxes are indeed countless.
But on this night, for the young mother Mary cradling her newborn babe, the paradoxes of name and identity and purpose matter little. For her, the paradoxes are more earthy, more present, more immediate:
I love this child more than anything I have ever loved…yet he is but eight days old.
I am exhausted beyond words, tired to death, weary in body and soul…yet I would move a mountain to protect and love my child.
I am ill-equipped for this task, unable to provide what any babe needs…yet I am Mother and Mary and Me, ready for all that lies ahead.
I wonder what Mary called her babe before he was named on this day, what she breathed into his ears as she held him at her breast, what she sang in her mind as she celebrated his life?
My Child. You. Precious One. Mine.
I wonder what God calls us as he breathes into our souls while cradling us in his loving arms, what he sings in his heart as he celebrates our life?
My Child. You. Precious One. Mine.
It is the eighth night of Christmas. The Christ-child is now marked and named. Are we?