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Early one morning recently I was getting ready to give our son Coleman a bath before he ate his breakfast and caught the bus for his summer school program.  Many of you who read this blog know that Coleman has developmental disabilities related to a genetic disorder called Dubowitz Syndrome.  He is also autistic.  Coleman is 18 years old now and can do numerous things for himself.  However, bathing is not among them, as I have previously written.  As I peeled Coleman’s t-shirt over his head before helping him into the tub, I instinctively said, “Skin a rabbit!”  I didn’t think about it; I just said it.

“Skin a rabbit” is a phrase that may or not be familiar to you.  I honestly don’t know how widespread its usage is.  I assume that it is primarily Southern and rural, but I could be wrong.  I just know that it is an expression that was ingrained in my consciousness from childhood by hearing it used as frequent commentary while a shirt was being taken off by pulling it inside out over someone’s head.  It was an especially common phrase on my mother’s side of the family in south Georgia.  I can still hear Mama Lila’s and Mom’s distinct inflection as they would say it.  The expression makes perfect sense if you have ever had the experience of dressing small game after a hunt.  For those of you who have missed out, I will refrain from going into detail here.   

Pondering the potential unfamiliarity of the expression “skin a rabbit” caused me to consider (again) how extremely confusing some of our expressions and abbreviations can be to the “uninitiated” in our worship assemblies.  It’s not just a concern about unchurched people; even Christians from other churches can be left very much in the dark as they listen to our conversations about congregational activities.

“New Heights will be using the O.C. where B.O.B. meets, but it won’t affect B.A.B.I. or VBS.”  That kind of esoteric speech makes perfect sense to members of the Broken Arrow church where I preach, but guests in our assemblies would likely be caused to feel even more like outsiders who do not speak our particular dialect of Christian code language.  While some further explanations would likely still be needed, their understanding would be greatly enhanced if I spoke to them about the Outreach Center, the Band of Brothers Bible Study, and the Broken Arrow Bible Institute.   

Several years ago, I caught some flack for always saying Vacation Bible School instead of just VBS when I would mention it from the pulpit.  The critical individual couldn’t believe that anyone on planet Earth wouldn’t know what VBS was.  In reality, there are millions of unchurched people who have never sung the “Booster” song and who think that VBS should probably be included in their children’s inoculations.

In most of our churches, acronyms, abbreviations, and other sacred shorthand have proven to be extremely handy and beneficial in our “in-house” congregational communications, and they should certainly continue to be used for those purposes.  However, we need to keep a vigilant sensitivity to the needs and understanding of guests and new members who may only hear us speaking in riddles.   

By the way, I recently spoke with someone (an adult) who had just discovered that IHOP stood for International House of Pancakes.  It was quite a revelation to them!

P.S.  When I ran the spell check tool on this post, it caught VBS and suggested that perhaps I meant VHS!      


I’ve been working on my rewrite, that’s right
I’m gonna change the ending
Gonna throw away my title
And toss it in the trash

So begins the song “Rewrite” on Paul Simon’s latest album, So Beautiful or So What.  Simon cleverly utilizes the metaphor of an aspiring author rewriting a story as a reminder that we have the ability to make decisions and exercise choices that can alter outcomes in our lives.  We don’t have to be imprisoned by a predetermined storyline or typecast as a victim of circumstance; we can elect to change the ending; then, change it again if necessary.

Life throws unanticipated curve balls at us that can knock holes in our plans, hopes, dreams, and timetables.  We can either view these experiences as debilitating defeats or accept them as challenges to adapt, roll with the punches, and adjust to a new course.  Scripture teaches us not to have a locked-in vision of the future as though we could pre-cast it in bronze.  We cannot arrogantly boast about tomorrow as if it were already in our possession, much less count on what that tomorrow will look like if and when it gets here.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:14-16)

When the apostle Paul first wanted to preach the Gospel in the Roman province of Asia, he was forbidden to do so by the Holy Spirit.  Plan B was to head to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus nixed that option as well.  Rather than pouting or throwing up his hands in frustration and discouragement, Paul remained open to Plan C and responded positively to an “invitation by vision” to head to Macedonia.  Plan C resulted in Paul powerfully and effectively proclaiming the story of Jesus in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.  And the province of Asia?  God’s answer wasn’t “never,” just “not now.”  A subsequent mission tour allowed him to spend three years there, ministering in the city of Ephesus. 

I have burned through Plans A, B, and C in my life and am steadily working my way down the alphabet.  I am 20-plus years behind on achieving the educational goals that I had laid out as a young man.  Various circumstances in my life did not work in favor of reaching those goals by this point.  So, am I undone by this?  No.  In fact, I may be back in the classroom part-time this fall.  The possibility of being twice the age of my teacher doesn’t deter me.  Who knows?  There may be a fellow student in need of counsel from a “father figure,” and I’ve got just enough gray to qualify!   

12 years ago, I had a 30-year ministry plan for the future.  I “knew” exactly what I was going to be doing and where I was going to be doing it.  The table was set, or so I arrogantly assumed.  But, things didn’t continue according to “my” plan.  When that happens, one only has a couple of options: assume a fetal position and wallow in self-loathing defeat, or adapt, adjust, and optimistically press on.  

I have chosen the latter.  I’m working on my rewrite.      

I’ll eliminate the pages
Where the father has a breakdown
And he has to leave the family
But he really meant no harm

Gonna substitute a car chase
And a race across the rooftops
When the father saves the children
And he holds them in his arms

While studying at my desk a few days ago, my attention was drawn to several scars on my left hand.  I have carried most of them with me for years.  The end of my left thumb is mangled and scarred from nearly severing it in a car door when I was 5 years old.  Though re-attached with stitches and wires, it is different in appearance and a bit shorter than my other thumb.  I was nearly grown before I stopped glancing at my thumbs to distinguish “left” from “right”!  The base of my middle finger bears scars made by the teeth of my dog, Snoopy, who often got carried away when we wrestled and played.  Near the end of the same finger is a long, thin scar from a knife wound that I inflicted on myself during my first attempt to get a coconut out of its shell.  My legs look like a historical, injury road map of my life: bicycle wrecks, falls on outdoor basketball courts, a Weed Eater mishap, etc.  Not so precious memories!

Scars are reminders of past pain.  The wounds which caused them no longer hurt, and the discomfort no longer distracts me or makes me wince.  Still, the scars serve as evidence of past experiences from which I learned some valuable lessons.  Looking at them can immediately take me back to South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Liberia, and Australia.  I can recall the faces and the names of those who were present at the time of the injuries and who may have even contributed to them! 

Not all scars are physical.  Some are emotional.  Some are relational.  Some are spiritual.  Some are self-inflicted.  Some exist as a result of the hurtful words and actions of others.  As time passes, the pain decreases and eventually disappears.  But, the scars remain to remind us and teach us; not to make us bitter, but to make us better.

The apostle Paul stated that he bore on his body the brand-marks of Jesus (Galatians 6:17).  These marks were physical scars and reminders of being lashed with whips, beaten with rods, pummeled with stones, etc.  He also carried emotional scars inflicted by those who doubted his sincerity, questioned and rejected his apostolic authority, and misrepresented his teaching.  I have no doubt that Paul forgave those who caused his visible and invisible wounds, but the scars remained.

I own my scars.  I don’t view them as blemishes of which I need to be ashamed.  They are evidence that I have lived.  They are evidence that I have learned.  They are evidence that I have survived.

Let me explain my family’s love affair with the Dallas Mavericks.

When Kim and I married in 1988, one of our shared interests was NBA basketball.  She was a fervent Celtics and Larry Bird fan, but we also loved watching the game’s other superstars like Magic, Kareem, Olajuwon, Barkley, Isaiah, Dominique, Jordan, Stockton, and Malone.  The playoffs always provided more than sufficient entertainment for us.

We didn’t live in a market that had a team, but we took opportunities to see exhibition games when we could.  We saw the Hawks and Rockets play in Nashville one year.  Then, during the time that we lived in Hawaii, we got to see the Lakers a few times.  They held their training camp on Maui and would play a couple of preseason games at Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu each year before heading back to L.A.

Then, in March of 1997, we moved to the Dallas suburb of Carrollton.  We immediately adopted the Mavericks as “our team.” For those who don’t remember or never knew, let me remind you where the Mavs were as a team in the late ‘90s.  They had just completed a decade in which they were the worst team in professional sports, i.e., they had the worst winning percentage of any team in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball.

Just before our arrival in Dallas, the Three J’s (Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, & Jim Jackson) had been sent packing in trades with Phoenix, Miami, and New Jersey.  Don Nelson had just become the general manager of the team and would soon take over the coaching responsibilities.  The line-up included Derek Harper, Michael Finley, A.C. Green, Shawn Bradley, Samaki Walker, Kurt Thomas, Sasha Danilovic, Martin Muursepp, Robert Pack, and a few others.

On April 10, 1997, Kim and I attended our first Mavericks game at Reunion Arena.  I can’t tell you how excited we were.  Never mind that the Mavs lost to a Seattle Sonics team loaded with players like Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf (former Mav), Sam Perkins (former Mav), Terry Cummings, and Nate McMillan.  The Mavs finished the season 24-58.  We didn’t care.  They were our team!

On November 20 of that year, Hannah (age 7) and I went to Reunion and watched A.C. Green break the NBA’s Iron Man record, playing in his 907th consecutive game (his streak finally stopped at 1,192).  Kim was with Coleman at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, at the time.  In the concourse before the game, Hannah started talking with a woman who turned out to be Kurt Thomas’ step-mother.  That encounter blossomed into a special friendship that the two of them kept up for several years.

Nelson swung a deal on Draft Day in 1998 that landed a lanky, 19 year-old German kid named Dirk Nowitzki.  Big Nellie also nabbed a feisty, young point guard named Steve Nash in a trade with Phoenix that day.  Both players got off to slow starts as Mavericks.  Both ultimately became league MVPs. 

Change was in the air.  Mark Cuban bought the team in January of 2000.  There was the Big Three of Nowitzki, Nash, and Finley.  There was the move from the cozy confines of Reunion Arena to the new, palatial American Airlines Center.  Not all of the moves were brilliant ones.  Remember the short-lived Dennis Rodman experiment?

Many players came and went over the next several years, far too many to list here.  We loved the grit and hustle of guys like Erick Strickland, Greg Buckner, and Eduardo Najera.  They had the same fearless, “leave it all on the floor” quality possessed by J.J. Barea.  We hated it when Nash got away.  Dirk just kept getting better and better.  Jason Terry joined the team.  Kidd ultimately returned.  Nellie was gone; Avery took us to the Finals in ’06; then it was Carlisle’s turn.

We attended games when we could and watched the rest on television.  Sometimes we would get nosebleed “Family Night” seats and all four of us would go.  One night we were literally on the top row, backs against the arena wall.  Coleman laughed every time a whistle blew.  Sometimes Kim and I would have the blessing of being the guest of friends who had corporate seats in the lower bowl.  Sweet!

One year I paid for Kim and Hannah to participate in a Mavericks program called NBA 101 for Women, in which they got to interact with players, coaches, training staff, and got to tour the AAC, locker room included.  They thanked me a lot for that one.

This post has gone on way longer than I intended; just too many great memories to share.

But, I wanted you to know why Kim, Hannah, and I are still a little hoarse from yelling and screaming on Sunday night as the Mavericks won their first NBA Championship.  I think Coleman’s fingers are even a little sore from signing “basketball” and “whistle” hundreds of times throughout the playoffs.  The Mavericks are truly a “family passion” for us.

Congratulations, Dirk and Mavs!  You have made us proud.  It was well worth the 14-year wait!

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June 2011