A Mission from God

Doug Schell has always been a meek and mild guy. Laid back. Never in a hurry. Never riled up. Even keel. The most angry I ever remember seeing him was on a road trip years ago when he got pulled over and he said in a slightly louder than his normally reserved yet hanging on to his lovable signature monotone voice, “Dang it.” That’s one of the things I love about him. We are opposites in everything other than our quirky sense of humor, our love for spicy food, and our even greater love for laughing while watching other people eat spicy food.

Doug is probably the best friend I’ve ever had. Our friendship developed when I was a teenager and Doug started to give me rides to youth events at our church. He is a few years older than I even though he claims to only be 21-something something something. Despite the age gap though, our friendship blossomed as a result of me acting ridiculous and him laughing at my ridiculousness. Some of my fondest memories were cruising around Toledo in his Oldsmobile Toronado. It was white with a red valour interior, fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, and a swan hood ornament with wings that actually lit up. We would cruise around and I would get a hold of the megaphone that he kept in his back seat and yell things at people on the side of the road. One time while rolling through our church parking lot I yelled, “Sister Stakely wears Depends!” I think I got in trouble for that one. Then there was the time I went to yell at someone on the side of the road and a cop rolled past just as I began to speak. Needless to say, I never really messed with the megaphone after that.

Doug is everyone’s favorite uncle. He has a way of lighting up a room like no one else I’ve ever really met. My kids adore him. They look forward to his dry jokes and his intentionally bad magic tricks. They even had a move that they used to do on the trampoline called, “The Doug”. Saying that Doug is loved in my home is the understatement of a lifetime.

I sat on my chair and a half sized recliner yesterday evening as he sat across the room on our couch. We reminisced a little. We laughed a little. We ate a little barbecue. Mostly, we just enjoyed a nice visit because visits over the years have become more few and far between than I would like. As we sat there, he received a Skype call that I could tell he really wanted to answer. It was his friend, Amanda. He answered and told her hi and then he turned the phone to my wife, then me, and then Emma so we could all say hi to her. He told her that he would call her back and hung up. Then he told us the back story of his friendship with Amanda.

He met her a few years ago at a wrestling show. Oh yeah, Doug is also a professional wrestler. (I can’t get into all of his hi-jinks when he takes on his persona of Mr. Main Event because you don’t have time to read about all of that.) He was in a 4th of July parade prior to his show when he saw this little girl in a wheelchair with her arms raised towards him. He wished he could get off the float and go to her but it just wasn’t possible. He was happy later on when during the show he noticed that same little girl in her chair next to her parents on the front row. So, he made it a point to talk to them after the show. Over time, Doug has developed a friendship with Amanda and her family. This friendship has developed into something so close that he feels like they are HIS family. If you happen to know the Schell’s, and you know how close they are as a family, then you know how deeply he feels when he calls these people his family. He told us how he goes to Cedar Point with them every year because her parents don’t really care for roller coasters, so Doug is Amanda’s coaster buddy. Then he made a statement that brings tears to my eyes even as I write this right now. He said, “She is my mission from God.

My mission from God.

Doug doesn’t attend church on a regular basis. Before we judge him for that we should consider his life and his mission. Doug is living out the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 when He said, “Whatever you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” I would also go as far as to say that Doug is more of a Christian that many of us who ritualistically attend services week in and week out. He is the very definition of missionary. No, he’s not in a remote village in Africa. He doesn’t show up at Amanda’s house with a ten pound Bible and smite them on their heads with it. He doesn’t demand that they repent and speak in tongues before he leaves their home. (Something tells me he would wear out his welcome really quickly if he did.) He simply allows the love of Jesus to shine through him every time he answers a Skype, gives her a hug, or screams next to her on The Mine Ride.

I sit here in conviction today. I think of myself as someone who is doing the best I can because I attend every church gathering I can possible attend. I pray. I fast. I read my Bible. I read other books that could help my ministry, but as I sit here writing this, I can’t help but ask myself, “What is my mission from God?”

The mission goes far beyond all those things I’ve mentioned. It goes beyond sharing a slice of my pizza or a bottle of Gatorade with a homeless guy. It is living every single day and allowing the love of Jesus shine through me. I fall short every day when I make fun of someone who was made in the image of God. I fall short when I snap at one of my kids that God gave me to demonstrate exactly how He loves me. I fall short when I don’t make my wife feel like she’s the most important treasure in my life.

I have to find a way to break this cycle of falling short. I need to find my mission from God. You need to find your mission from God. That’s my prayer today.

God, order my steps.

Help me to see your mission for me.

Playing Hurt (They Need Us)

It was the final game for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1993 season. They entered into the hostile atmosphere of The Meadowlands to face the New York Giants in a deciding battle to determine who would win the NFC East division title. The ‘Boys had already won a Super Bowl under legendary coach Jimmy Johnson and the Giants were now standing in the way of them winning their second straight division title. Dallas was stacked with talent but relied heavily on Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Smith was on his way to another great performance when he took a hard shoulder-separating hit from the Giants’ Greg Jackson with 1:58 left in the first half. It seemed that Smith’s season and the Cowboys hopes for another Super Bowl win were over. Whether you are a Cowboys fan or a hater like myself, if you remember watching Emmitt play, you cannot deny the heart with which he played the game. He came out in the second half to gain another 78 yards in total offense finishing with 229 for the game. In the final game-winning drive, Smith touched the ball 9 out of the 12 plays they ran including the final 5 plays of the drive. He did this…with one arm. The Cowboys went on to make a run through the playoffs and won their second consecutive Super Bowl.

The sports world is full of stories of athletes who did extraordinary things while playing hurt. Who can forget Michael Jordan scoring 38 points with the flu against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals? I’ll probably always rememer the image of Bella Karolyi carrying Kerri Strug to the Gold Medal platform during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta after she landed a perfect vault with a broken ankle to propel the USA Women’s gymnastics team to gold or Kurt Angle winning wrestling gold that same year with a broken neck. Of course, my personal all-time favorite sports memory was Kirk Gibson rounding the bases pumping his fist after blasting a home run with “two bum legs” off of lights-out closer Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. If you use Google correctly, you can find all kinds of stories of inspiration.

Why then, knowing about all of these stories, have I found myself nearly paralyzed for over a year and a half?

I’ve been hurt. I have felt betrayed. I have felt like I’ve been thrown under the proverbial bus.

Last May, we moved back to my hometown of Toledo, OH and I came here with the plan of never working in ministry again. I came here tired of the politics. I came here tired of the extra dedication it takes. I came here tired of feeling like I need to answer for everything I want to do.

I came here tired.

I came here hurt. I was ready to hang up my ministerial cleats. I was ready to just sit in the back of the church and cheer for the home team and then go home to the safety of my domicile, flip on the tv, and watch baseball.

That was all good and fine until I found myself in the belly of a whale. Of course, that’s not literal. I did find myself, though, and I found myself out of the will of God. It’s a funny thing when you know you have a special calling on your life. Well, I don’t know if “funny” is the right word. It’s definitely peculiar. It doesn’t matter what you try to do with you life. When you have a special calling, you cannot escape it. You can try to bury it. You can try to bury it with extreme things like alcohol and drugs. You can try to get your mind off of it by watching countless hours of tv and movies. You can dive in and immerse yourself in your work, but the calling never goes away, and God has a way of getting you right where He wants you until you finally throw you hands up in surrender.

That’s where I have found myself on this very morning as I sit here jotting down my thoughts. I have found myself tired of sitting on the sidelines watching all of the action. I have found myself tired of nursing an injury that I should’ve never nursed in the first place and letting this injury keep me out of the action.

I sat in a meeting last night and listened to my pastor as he shared his vision with a large group of us at our church. He told a story about one of my childhood heroes that shook me to the core. Rod Farnsworth was one of my Sunday School teachers. He was part of the leadership of the Boy Scout troop we had when I was a kid. He was the father of one of my best friends growing up. He was a great man with an infectious smile. I’ll always remember how he would walk among a group of us and say, “Gentlemen.” He would say that knowing that our conversation was most likely one that “gentlemen” should not be engaged in. Once every few months in Sunday School class, always for the benefit of the new students, he would draw a rectangle on the chalkboard and ask the question, “How do you make an elephant out of this box?” The answer was, “You take out everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” It was a pretty simple concept of “if you want to be like Jesus, you take out everything in your life that doesn’t look like Jesus”. Our pastor, last night, was talking about a vision that he launched a few years ago. It was a little radical compared to what the church body was used to. People questioned. People doubted. People scoffed. It was Rod Farnsworth who stood up and said that this vision needed to happen because, “They need us.”

They need us.

I have to admit that the words, “They need us,” have been replaying over and over in my mind since that meeting.

Over the years, I have found myself in these spots where I’m ready to give it all up. I’m ready to throw in the towel and just run away to a place where no one knows me and hide from my calling. I have come to the realization that, just like Jonah, the result of this retreat will be nothing more than the captivity of a whale’s belly. As I sat there last night, God did what He does best and whispered to me, “They need you.”

Who are they?

They are my wife and kids. They are my neighbors. They are the men of my church who need another man who can relate to their everyday struggles. They are the misguided youth of the City of Toledo. They are my coworkers to whom I’ve not been a very good witness. They are whomever God directs me to talk to. They are all the ones who cannot afford for me to sit on the bench any longer and whine about my hurting ego.

Who are they in your life? What is holding you back? Are you hurt? Are you tired? Are you ready to give it all up? Before you do…

They need you!

They need all of us.

Playing hurt isn’t a new thing. Some of the greatest stories in history have come from people who have overcome adversity to put on the performance of a lifetime. I’m ready for my story to be written. I’m ready to be inspired by your story. I’m ready. Are you ready?

They need us.