Author Archives: Shawn Jennings

Let’s Go Exploring

On December 31, 1995 Bill Waterson published the final “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip. It was a very simple three-cell layout of Calvin, an imaginative six year old, and his stuffed tiger/best friend Hobbes (of whom he saw as alive while others simply saw him as a stuffed tiger) exploring a world of freshly fallen snow. Everything in the strip was black and white with the exception of Calvin and Hobbes. Toting their toboggan through the winter wonderland, they marvel at the “fresh clean start” ahead of them, “a day full of possibilities!” Calvin exclaims. In the final cell, they climb onto the toboggan they had been carrying with Calvin turning to Hobbes saying “It’s a magical world Hobbes ol’ buddy…” and with a push they ride off into the vast whiteness; while Calvin finishes his thought and says “Let’s go exploring!”

I was in fifth grade when that comic strip was published and had only recently really begun to understand and appreciate Bill Waterson’s masterful work of art. As I grew up I continued to cherish Calvin and Hobbes, and to this day I can still be found thumbing through the pages of one of the many collection books I have; and I look forward to sharing them with my son as he grows older. Every time I approach the beginning of the New Year (especially when we are blessed with a new fall of snow), I think of this final strip of Calvin and Hobbes.

There is something almost magical about the beginning of a new year. To echo a line said by Hobbes in the final strip, “It’s like looking at a big piece of white paper ready to draw on.” It’s a year full of possibilities and dreams. We make resolutions, set new goals, and imagine how different we’ll be a year from now, “New year, new me!” But often by February most of those resolutions have fallen to the wayside, and as we progress through the year it can be easy to look back on that big white sheet of paper and see the drawing we’ve already done and think of “what could have been”.

For some of us we can look back at a lifetime worth of “big white sheets of paper” and be displeased with what we see, what could have been. But we serve a God who promises to make us new. Isaiah 1:18 states “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” And this isn’t just a one-time promise, or a time sensitive matter. Regardless of the time of year or what has taken place in our past God promises to make us new. To take whatever seemed permanent, and unchangeable and give us a fresh start.

The only one that can change us is God, we might have a good idea of where we want to go this year, but the only true source of real transformation is Jesus Christ. If you haven’t done so yet this month ask God where He is calling you this year. What are His resolutions for your life? Every day God, through His son gives us a fresh sheet of big white paper. It’s time to go exploring.

~Shawn Jennings

Pressing On

Nerf Wars is one of our most popular youth fellowship events. One of my favorite parts of Nerf Wars isn’t actually participating, but watching the madness ensue. We start off the first games with capture the flag. Easy enough; prevent the other team from capturing your flag while attempting to capture their flag. From a third party perspective these first games are always funny to watch and very predictable. Over the radio the command to “Go”! rings out and kids sprint out of their respective bases. Each team usually makes it down a hallway before they begin to see signs of the opposite team, at which point players from both teams immediately stop and take cover; or usually retreat back to their own base. From an observer’s role it’s funny to see the kids sprint out of the base, hear some screams, and then see three-fourths of the team return. Not because they are out of the game, but because they didn’t want to risk being out. These first games usually are some of the longest because no one is really willing to risk it to go after the other team’s flag.

Eventually small skirmishes ensue from a safe distance, which evolves into people getting a little braver and riskier. At some point players start to throw caution to the wind and start rushing and making advances through the hallways. This is when the real fun begins. Soon a team captures a flag and is deemed victorious.

So it is like our faith. I know nothing screams a faith analogy like Nerf Wars! It did get me thinking, “What does this event, specifically designed for fellowship and fun, reveal about our faith walk? Paul writes in Philippians 3; “13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.”

It takes a risk to press on into anything. The mystery of the unknown and the potential for failure can easily cause us to retreat back to our home base and protect what we already have. But when this is done the only thing assured is our goal will never be reached. We are called to set the things that distract and burden us aside and to press on to our goal of knowing Christ, to be like Christ; and to be all Christ has in mind for us.

Is there something or somewhere that Christ is calling you toward today? Maybe it’s starting a devotion, joining a bible study, serving a ministry, or asking a question. Whatever it may be, If we want to reach an objective we have to move. Whatever it is; it’s time to rush in, throw caution to the wind. It’s time to give it to Jesus and to press on.

 

Power Source

I always know when I’m getting overly stressed when I start having “Restaurant nightmares”. I worked in the restaurant industry for close to 9 years as a cook. Working a lunch and a dinner rush can be extremely stressful. Orders just keep piling in one after the other. The ticket counter becomes a sea of little white receipts hanging in front of the window between the wait staff and the cooks, often times forming a complete curtain where the other side can’t be seen. Everyone is yelling, and rushing about. It can be chaotic.

“Restaurant nightmares” are when I have a dream of simply working during one of these stressful moments. Nothing weird is going on, people don’t start flying or monsters don’t appear. I’m just working. These use to be very frustrating when I’d get off working a double all day, to then go home to bed only to dream about being at work again (and then wake up and go to work!)

It’s been 8 years since I last worked in a restaurant but I still have these dreams when I get stressed out. It sounds sort of odd, but I guess that’s where my mind goes when I’m stressed.

I handle stress pretty poorly, I just try and push through on my own strength. Which generally leads to more stress and makes everything worse. Simply put, I run out of power. God however did not make us to “go it alone”.

If we leave our phones or computers off the charger too long they soon will drain of all power and be unable to function. We too need to stop and plug into the power of God before we find ourselves in empty.

He has given us the power of the Holy Spirit, an unlimited and greater source of power than we could ever imagine.

As our Summers begin to wind down and we rush to squeeze in those last summer events, while we also begin prepping for our fall routines; remember to stay plugged into the one true power source.

~ Shawn Jennings

Challenged!

“For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The blowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.”

Every year at the opening of spring training, Tiger’s broadcasting icon Ernie Harwell would recite this passage from Song of Solomon.  I love when the Tigers begin to start their spring training activities. When pitchers and catchers begin to report in the middle of February, it reminds me that spring is just around the corner no matter how cold it may feel outside. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter but usually by the time baseball hits the radio, I’ve had my winter fun and I’m ready for warmer weather.

Yes, I am a devoted Tigers fan. I have been for as long as I can remember, through thick and thin. The Tigers were horrible when I was growing up, (119 losses in 2003) but I always stuck it out with them. In 2005 when I was in Iowa, I remember walking around campus wearing my Tigers hat and someone from a dorm window yelled, “HEY, THE TIGERS SUCK!” to which my only response was, “I KNOW!” Regardless I was and still am proud to call myself a devoted Tigers fan. I wear the gear, listen to the games, and keep track of the players statistics. It’s something I’m pretty public and transparent about it.

A few weeks ago there was a “Bible Verse Challenge” making it’s way around Facebook. The concept was for 7 days to share your  favorite Bible verse and nominate a few people each day to participate in the challenge as well. I ended up being nominated by a few people and found myself conflicted and struggling with doing the challenge at all. Not because I couldn’t think of Bible verses to post or that I’m never online. It sounds dumb but, I was almost afraid to post anything about my faith. I didn’t want to offend anyone (a large percentage of my friends are non believers) and I didn’t want to get into any theological spats. My personal relationship with God, I felt, was something to keep personal. How could I consider myself a disciple of Christ if I wasn’t willing to publicly show it? I prayed about and took part in the challenge and was able to find a lot of joy in it. It was almost freeing.

The whole thing was a bit of a wake up call. Had I been challenged to participate in the “7 day Name Your Favorite Detroit Tiger” challenge, I would not have hesitated to start posting and nominating. Why then was it so hard to be public about my faith which is infinitely more important than rooting for a baseball team. I let my priorities get mixed and my perception of my public faith become distorted.

I need a good wake up call like that every now and again. We all probably do. It’s easy on one hand to proclaim something like our faith is the most important thing in our lives, but do our actions reflect that? I claim to love the Tigers and my actions show that; it’s apparent I invest myself into following them. The hard question I had to ask myself recently is “Have I been investing myself into my faith growth the way I invest into other things of this world? Are my actions reflective of what I proclaim, or am I just kidding myself?”

Spring is traditionally the time for everything to wake up. Gone are the drab days of winter.  Everything around us is coming to life. No matter where you are in your faith walk, take time to take a step back today and ask God to challenge you. That is a scary prayer to lift up, but God does His best work when we are outside of our comfort zone, because then we need to completely rely on Him. He equips the called; He meets all our needs for the glory of Jesus Christ.