Monthly Archives: April 2013

Be the Kneecap

Sometimes I say weird things and people quote it back to me years later. There was that time my brother caught me saying, “I love ham” to myself when I was looking in the fridge for a snack.

Then that time in college when he and I were playing one-on-one and he pushed me to the ground, so I screamed, “I can’t feel my hands!”

In an honest complaint to a friend about daylight savings time, I whined that, “I have to turn on the light in the morning.”  She now says that every time I complain about anything.

So yeah, my quotes aren’t insightful or life-changing.  I have no words of wisdom that are ever going to make it on “Brainy Quotes.”  However, I did say a line that made it onto a cake:

“Be the kneecap.”

That was my  quotable line.

During the Zuni trip we were talking about how each team member brings something different to the team.  But the oh-so-human tendency is to look at what others bring to the team and wish we had their skills, while ignoring the value of our own.  We’ll look at the hand and wish we could be as useful as it.  Or we’ll wish we could be more like the arm.  But all the while, we are the kneecap, a very crucial body part, and we need to just, you know, be the kneecap.

Or the elbow.

Or the eyebrow.

Or the pinky toe.

Whatever it is that God made you to be, figure that out and go be it!  I don’t know why a kneecap came to mind, but it did and it stuck.

I love Paul’s analogy of the body of Christ being like an actual body and I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of Paul’s letter:

“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything.

Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. 

A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own” (1 Corinthians 12).

It’s not just kids on a mission trip who need to be reminded that we are all parts of the body, significant in different ways.  It was the Corinthians and it’s me.  And I’m guessing it’s probably you too.  Because it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and see our role as less important.  So while it was easy for me to sit there and tell my students to “be the kneecap,” I still looked at my fellow leaders and wrestled with thoughts like:

“She’s way more organized than I am.”

“Kids respect him more than they respect me.”

“Her outfit is cuter than mine.”

“He’s more insightful.”

“She’s a better problem-solver.”

“I wish I could sing or cook or lead like so-n-so.”

But on this trip, when those pesky little comparisons crept into my mind, I told them to go away.  Instead, I thought about how the body is stronger when everyone is doing their part well and I can’t be all the parts.  So instead of focusing on the fact that others are better at singing or cooking or organizing than I am, I’ll focus on the role and gifts God has given me.  But I also won’t see my gifts as any more important than others since, as Eugene points out, a gigantic hand would be a monster, not a body.

Now that I’m back home, I still need to be reminded of this lesson almost on a daily basis.  I’m tempted to compare myself to other teachers and coaches and friends and bloggers, but instead of falling into that dirty trap once more, I’ve determined to simply be the kneecap.

***

How about you?  Do people quote something you said years ago?  I’d love to hear it.

For instance, we often still quote my dad for saying, “You don’t have to like it; you just have to eat it.”

Heidi, I’m thinking of quotes involving your wrists and problems counting.  Travis, you said a zinger when Trent punched your sandwich.  Jenny, remember what you said when we were trying to make friends at the retreat?  Lesley, I’m thinking of a line you said in the DC about our coolness.

Everyone’s got a weird line they’re remembered for and I’d love to hear yours.  Share your quotable lines in the comments.  I’ll start with another of my foolish remarks still repeated.

Zuni lessons 2013 (part 1)

I swore in front of my students while leading a mission trip.

It was the S word.

And it was quite embarrassing.

But it may have been even more embarrassing when I answered my phone in a thick British accent only to realize that it was not a kid in the other van calling, but rather the guardian of one of the students on the trip.

Let me explain.  On Friday we made the 10 hour trek home from the Indian Reservation in Zuni, New Mexico, one of my favorite places on earth.  A few hours into the drive, the van right in front of us lost a hubcap that came hurtling straight for us.  I swerved and “sugar-honey-ice-tea” slipped out.

Then while the kids slept most of the 10 hour drive, for the last 2 hours they all spoke is surprisingly accurate British accents.  It’s hard to speak American when everyone around you sounds so posh, so naturally I joined in and naturally that’s when the guardian called.  Bugger.

Besides learning to watch for hubcaps and be normal when answering unknown numbers on my phone, I learned several other lessons in Zuni. This was my fourth year going and each year God teaches me new things and reveals Himself in new ways.  Perhaps that’s part of the reason I love it here so much.

Here is part 1 of the things I learned this time around:

1. Cow tipping isn’t real.

Did you know this?  I didn’t.  My mind was blown.  Seriously blown.  Like it’s been 4 days and I am still shocked.  I mean, something I believed all my life to be true is actually just a joke among the farming community?  How did I not know this for so long?!

Apparently, cows don’t sleep standing up.  And if you try to push them when they’re awake, they’ll just move and look at you like you’re an idiot.  I sure felt like an idiot when Alex, a chipper young chap who works at the Zuni school, convinced me of this hard-to-believe truth.

2. One should steer clear of men dressed like eagles.

Each year we attend the Zuni religious dances where the men dress as the kachinas, which are their gods, asking for rain or good health or other blessings.  Each year I am struck by how this bizarre nature of worship is so similar to what is found in our own culture.

Before nightfall another leader and I scoped out the area where the dances would be and we noticed small fires being tended in front of most of the homes.  When we asked about this, the women explained that they were feeding their ancestors.  Apparently, they had been setting aside a sacrifice of their dinners from the past months and that food was burned on this night to welcome home and feed their ancestors.

This night was a special night since the ancestors would return to watch the young boys be initiated into the religious society with a whipping done with the yucca plant.  The dances happened in homes rather than the plaza, so the dancers waiting to enter the homes stood awkwardly close to those watching the dances, ie- people like us.  The dances are solemn affairs and it was not okay for us non-Zunis to be in such close proximity to the men that Zunis believe become the gods when dressed as the kachinas.  Thus, some of the men dressed as eagles spread their arms as if they were flying and cleared us out of the way so we wouldn’t be too close to the other dancers.

Sounds bizarre, right?

But I’ve been learning this year that no matter what one worships, it always looks a little weird.  Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Tom Cruise, atheist, or agnostic, as humans we all naturally worship something or someone.  We find meaning and value in something and devote our lives to it.  And whether we are worshipping God, or gods, or cars, or money, or sports teams, or celebrities, or our bodies, or clothes, or food, or our ancestors, or our living family, or ourselves, worship always looks strange to an outsider.

So yes, the Zuni rituals seem rather bizarre.  But so does this:

So who am I to judge?

3. Worship isn’t about the dances we dance or the songs we sing.  It’s about the lives we live.

We can identify what someone worships based on how they live, or in some cases, based on what they paint on their body.  Our devotion is seen by what we think about and talk about most.  Where we spend our time, money, and efforts all reveal our objects of worship.  Because as Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”

The Zuni people treasure their ancestors and their gods and their traditions.  They burn fires and wear strange costumes while performing odd dances.  But they are simply doing what we all do; they’re worshipping.

There are often times when I am worshipping our God and see myself as an outsider would.  I watch myself take communion or hold hands in a circle while singing the doxology and I think, “This is so bizarre.  We look like a bunch of nuts!”

But all worship looks a little nutty.

Whether burning fires to feed spirits, eating the body and the blood, shopping at the mall, cheering for a sports team, drooling over a celebrity crush, or obsessing over appearance or relationships, worship always looks odd.

This week I relearned the importance of recognizing what I am worshipping with my life.  Because if I’m not intentional about making my day about Jesus and His kingdom, 15 other things are vying for my attention and my worship.  Usually it’s myself.  But if I start each day acknowledging that my life belongs to Him and my day should be lived for Him, it’s easier to give proper worship to my Creator.

And when I forget, when I ignore God and focus on the things other than Him that I’m tempted to worship, well, then I’m like that fool trying to tip a cow, wasting my time believing a lie.