Friday, September 16, 2016

Last Night: Moonlight Graham's Special Place

Archibald "Moonlight" Graham
NY Giants, 1905
Bumping this to the top of the blog in honor of the passing of W.P. Kinsella, who inspired me as a writer and baseball fan. His book 'Shoeless Joe' is one of my most treasured novels. I have quoted that book and the movie it inspired numerous times in my own writing and teaching. It breaks my heart that his older years had become so troubling as to lead him to choose assisted suicide.

If you've never seen the movie Field of Dreams, I feel sorry for you. It's my #1 favorite movie.

Baseball fan Ray Kinsella, at the urging of a mysterious voice, builds a ballpark in his corn field, drives from Iowa to Boston to take a famous writer to a ballgame, and  winds up in Chisholm, Minnesota, in search of an old ballplayer who played a single inning for the New York Giants, but never got a turn at bat.

They find Archie "Moonlight" Graham in Chisholm, but he's no longer the young ballplayer. He's now "Doc" Graham, the small town doctor who has devoted his life to the people of his town. While there's a small part of him that still wonders about what might have been, his heart is elsewhere.
Ray Kinsella: “Fifty years ago you came this close to your dream. I mean, it would kill some men to get that close to their dream and not touch it. They’d consider it a tragedy.” 
Doctor Archibald Graham: “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.”
(Field of Dreams, Universal Pictures, 1989) 

Ray Kinsella doesn't understand how he can say that, but the old doctor explains to him that Chisholm is where his heart abides.
“This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child. I can’t leave Chisolm. I was born here, I live here, I’ll die here, with no regrets.”

John, the apostle, uses the word abide fifty times in his writings.

For years John was quite comfortable abiding by the sea of Galilee, living the rugged blue collar life of  a fisherman. Family was important to him: he and Andrew were know as the sons of Zebedee, and their mother was a helicopter mom before there were helicopters.

His friends and co-workers were also important to him. Anyone who works at harvesting a crop lives a large portion of his life in the place where he works his trade. For John, his most special place in all the world would have been the boats. Sailing the boat, working the nets, battling the elements, alongside his brother and his friends, he would feel at home. That boat provided sustenance for his family, close-knit friendship, and purpose for his life.

And then he met Jesus.

He found eternal life in Jesus (I John 2:24-25). In Jesus he found fellowship (I John 1:3-7). And in Jesus he found purpose in loving the world Jesus loved (I John 3:11-20).

Once Jesus touches you like that, the wind never blows so cold again. Why would you eve want to go back to the life you once called home?
Abide in me and I will abide in you. John 15:4

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Flipside of Spiritual Gifts: The Rest of the Story

The September issue of Christian Standard magazine features my article on The Flipside of Spiritual Gifts. I encourage you to check it out, in paper or online, and read the article. As often is the case, not everything in my notebook made the cut to be include in the final published manuscript. Here's the rest of the story:

A few links about former University of Missouri Tim Wolfe, who I used as an example of derailers:

Mizzou News Daily Clips Packet, 10/10/2015
Some on campus said Mr. Wolfe was seen as stiff and aloof, and Mr. Middleton said a confrontation between the president and students on Friday outside a fund-raising event in Kansas City dealt a blow to those talks.
. . .
In a fateful encounter with protesters at a homecoming parade in October, members of Concerned Student 1950, a group named for the year the university admitted its first black student, surrounded Mr. Wolfe’s car. The police dispersed the students, and Mr. Wolfe did not come out of his car to address them, which he later acknowledged fed perceptions that he did not care about their issues.
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe’s very telling resignation speech (Washington Post, 10/10/15)

Tim Wolfe's letter 2-1/2 months after resigning (Columbia Daily Tribune, 1/27/16)

A short list of common talents and associated derailers, from How to Spot a Derailer (Evening Standrad, 11/16/09)
Confidence / Arrogance Charisma / melodrama Energetic / Volatile Prudence/Paralysis Vigilance / Distrust and Witch Hunting Cool Headed / Aloof Spontaneity/Chaos Flair / Eccentricity Neutral / PAssive resistance Detail oriented / perfectionism Eager to please / at all costs
Two quotes about derailers in the ministry:

Lessons from Mars Hill (
We think of leaders falling to temptation around money, sex, power, and information which are temptations to vice, to lustful passions, to sarx. Wise leaders build accountability provisions around these vices. But the temptations to misuse of virtues often go completely unrecognized and therefore without protections of accountability. I think of many stories of leaders who ended up in sinful relationships – not because they were tempted to indulge sexual lusts but because virtues of pastoral helping were used beyond boundaries of godliness. Caring is expressed in a touch, then in touches, in holding . . . and misused virtue becomes devastating sin.
5 Lessons from Leadership Failures (
Rather, the absence of one or more of four dimensions of character is clearly tied to derailment: authenticity, self-management, humility, and courage. The full expression of the dark side of these qualities nearly always dooms us. . . 
Stress brings out what’s inside us. If you don’t think you have a dark side to your character, then you probably haven’t been under enough stress! Wise leaders manage their stress levels and mitigate its pernicious impact on our behavior.

Monday, September 5, 2016

In Print: The Flip Side of Spiritual Gifts

I met Jane in prison, where she is serving a life sentence. Her lifestyle of self-absorption had led her on a downward spiral of unspeakable cruelty and violence. In prison, she was led to Christ. Soon she developed the Spirit-driven gift of encouraging other people, much to the surprise of people who knew her before.

What surprised her, though, was the unexpected flip side that came with the unexpected spiritual gift. She kept sinking into codependent behaviors that pulled her deeply into the messy lives of others.

What Jane experienced is not uncommon. Along with every spiritual gift/talent comes a corresponding flip side—a susceptibility to specific temptations related to that gift. Psychologists and business theorists call it a “derailer” or a “dark side” to positive traits and skills.

Read the full article at