When You Need Help…Ask for It

One day I needed help in a big way. I was at the gym a few years back and there was only one other guy working out at the same time. I was putting in a little extra work that day and on the agenda was some decline presses. Now, if you know what they are you know they are kind of strange. You are leaning backwards with your head slanted towards the floor. Blood is rushing to your head…that can’t be the best way to workout. And then you take the bar off the rack and fight against gravity wanting to take it and obliterate your blood-rushed head.

I had been building up my strength on the decline and was pretty proud of the progress. I was now adding weights to the bar and so I put the 2 ½ lb. plates on each end and got ready to lift. Now, one rule of lifting is you shouldn’t lift alone. You need a spotter. I figured I could handle this by myself and, if I had a problem, could grunt loud enough for the other guy to come over and lend me a hand.

At the time I did not realize it but I had made the grave mistake of already doing some arm work. I got to the third set of my decline presses and was doing fine until suddenly my right triceps gave out. I had the bar resting up against me and I could not for the life of me get it back up to the rack.

Not to worry. I used my blood-rushed head to look around the room so I could grunt to the other guy and he was nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t sure what to do. I imagined leaning the bar to one side and then the other but knew this would only end in embarrassment.

But then, out of nowhere—actually out of the men’s bathroom—came the only other person in the weight room. Like a “band of brothers” brother, he helped me in my time of trouble. And I was desperately in need of help.

The younger son in the story of the Prodigal Son needed help. A great famine had come on the distant land he had gone to where he had squandered all his father’s fortune. In those days “great famines” meant there would be robbing, murder, bodies left to rot in the streets and even children being sold for money. It was bad enough that he was feeding pigs for a living. This made it even worse.

But it took him some time before he decided to go home. He knew how he would be greeted. The people of the town would meet him outside the city. They would take a clay pot and break it on the ground in front of him and tell him, “You are to us as this clay pot. You are broken. You are cut off.” This ceremony was called Kezazah, a Hebrew word meaning “to cut off.” “You have broken our community, you are now cut off from us, never to return. Let these pieces be a symbol of your brokenness.”

That’s what he expected. It might explain why it took him until he was at rock bottom before he was willing to ask for help. We don’t like to ask for help much, do we? Especially men. I’ll spend an hour in Lowe’s looking for the part I need before I’ll ask someone in a blue vest.

We humans will often stay in our own mess before we find help so we can live differently. Author Robert Quinn notes: “We actually seem to prefer slow death. Slow death is the devil we know, so we prefer it to the devil we do not know.”  What he’s saying is we’d rather keep repeating a cycle that leads to slow death because we know it and would rather stay there than to risk what it takes to change. What it takes to change is admitting we need help.

The son did. He came to his senses and he went home. And instead of facing the Kezazah ceremony, his father ran to him. The word Luke uses in the story for “ran” is used for an athlete. He ran like Usain Bolt to get to his son before the Kezazah did. Dignified men did not run. It was humiliating to do so. But this father did. He took the humiliation that should have been his son’s and placed it on himself.

The son found his help in the Father. And you can too. Jesus told this story so that people who needed help in life could come home. Jesus lived among people so that people who needed help could see what the Father was like. In Jesus they found a Father who runs and covers their humiliation with a robe, a ring, and sandals.

Ask for the help you need today. You don’t have to do life on your own. You certainly don’t have to run.  Your Father is already running to you.

Question: Is there a place in your life today where you need to ask for help? Who can you ask? Will you do it?


When Running Around Leads to Your Turning Around

Police raided an open field full of underage drinkers recently in Holmes County, Ohio. You may think this sounds familiar. You may have been a part of some open field parties yourself in your younger days. But this one was unique. The raid happened when 45 police officers descended on a party that was part of a Rumspringa.

Rumspringa is an Amish rite of passage. The word means “running around.” For Amish youth, Rumspringa usually begins around the age of 14-16. Teens are allowed freedom to leave the community and experiment with the world outside. After this season they come back to the community with a choice to make. They can either choose baptism with the Amish church or leave the community permanently and choose to live in the world.

But during Rumspringa some do some pretty radical things. Like buying a television. Or driving a car instead of a horse-drawn buggy. Some forgo the traditional clothing and hairstyles and go modern.

And some try out alcohol. That’s what led to a gathering of Amish kids in an open field in Ohio where beer was running as free as the Rumspringa teens. Imagine the regrets voiced while 75 were sitting in the local jailhouse.

You and I have some regrets too. We’ve probably had our own forms of a Rumspringa. We just call it by other names: “sowing our wild oats,” “Spring Break at the beach,” or  “mid-life crisis I’m buying a Harley-springa.”

There may be someone reading this on a Rumspringa right now. Some running around. Experimenting with something taboo. Flirting with something outside your boundaries. And you may be setting yourself up for regret.

We all have them. Even if we have already found our way to God there are many other times we have to find our way back to God. We wander from him. We do things we know we shouldn’t or maybe things we don’t realize will harm us. And we have regrets.

The younger son had them. He took an early withdrawal of his inheritance, went to a foreign land, and squandered it all. The story says that he “came to his senses” and made a decision to “arise and go” to his father.

When we come to our senses and awaken to our regret we repent. “Repent” sounds churchy, but it really isn’t. It is a compound Greek word made up of “mind” and “change.” Repentance, then, is a changing of our mind or our way of thinking. The Hebrew word for repent means “to return.”

The younger son had to change the way he was thinking about life. He had searched for something to satisfy his longing for love, purpose and meaning. When he hit rock bottom he realized the longing was still there.

And maybe sitting in pig squalor can help a person discover the real longing is for home. So he repented—he changed his direction—and headed home. Repentance can involve emotion. Some repent and tears flow. But repentance has more to do with motion. All repent and then go. True repentance propels us to go in a new direction. The younger son’s was towards his father.

Many of us have “come to our senses.” We can recognize decisions we’ve made that led us to places we one day regretted. But regret doesn’t get us home. That’s the second step that many people never get to. We want to change, we want to start over, we want a mulligan. But shame, guilt and even fear get in our way. We ask: “Will they accept me?” “Will they take me in?” “Could God ever forgive someone like me?”

And the answer is “Yes, yes he can. And yes yes he will.” The father welcomes his son home with an embrace. The Father will do the same for you.

Go home to him. He’ll run out to greet you. And that’s a better story than all the running around we could ever do.

Question: What direction are you going today? Do you need to change direction?



When Your Longings Surface Turn Towards Home

Henry the VIII had six. Elizabeth Taylor had eight. Zsa Zsa Gabor had nine.

But Glynn Wolfe had more. He holds the record for marriages: 29 in all. He married some for days, some for months, and a few for years. He married teenage women and he married women with teenagers. He married country girls and he married city girls.

He exchanged wives like someone trying on a variety of clothes. You’d think somewhere along the way, maybe at #5 or even #14 he would have stopped. But he didn’t. Wolfe said he loved women but would get bored with them and felt a strong drive to find another one.

Henry. Elizabeth. Zsa Zsa. Glynn. It doesn’t take much to realize they were all looking for something. More correctly, they were longing for something. We have longings too.

We have a longing for love. That’s why when you got dumped in a relationship you found yourself getting into another one later.

We have a longing for purpose. That’s why even when you were a kid and did not have to pay bills or worry about working, you still had a dream of who you wanted to be when you grew up. And the reason you were thinking about this is that you already had a desire inside of you for purpose.

We long for meaning too. We want to know the answers to the big “Why?” questions of life. You may have asked them yourself: “Why, if God is good, did he let this happen?” “Why am I here?” “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”

Those questions and these longings are in us because they are placed there by God. The longings aren’t the problem. The problem is we often journey away from God to find answers to our longings.

The Prodigal Son did. Charles Dickens called this the greatest short story ever. The younger son in the story had everything his father had to give him. But even with that he had a longing for something more.

So he asked his dad for his inheritance. In that Middle Eastern first century culture that request was the same as telling your father you wished he were dead. You were supposed to take care of your father in his old age and then, when he did die, you would receive your inheritance.

But the father gave him his inheritance and he went away and spent it all “in reckless living.” We don’t know what that was. Drinking? Gambling? His brother offered that he “devoured the property with prostitutes.” Regardless, he lost it all trying to fulfill his longings.

When the money and the women and the friends were all gone he discovered he had another longing: home. He wanted to go back home to his father, even if it meant he would work as a hired hand.

Jesus told this story because he knew we all have longings for something more. And he knew that “something more” was life with the Father. That is where your “home” and mine is. It is a story about finding your way home to the Father.

As far as we know Glynn Wolfe never found his way back home. Believe it or not, he was a minister and he died alone, suffering panic attacks in the middle of the night in his later life because he was virtually alone all the time. To his dying day he kept a wedding dress in his closet. Just in case.

Your story can end on a different note. Pay attention to your longings. Believe that they will not be satisfied running from God but running towards God. Then turn towards home today.

Question: Identify a time when your “longings” took you far from home…the place you are made to be.