MARK 6:30-34, 45-46

APRIL 13, 2008



            I came across a Funky Winkerbean episode a few weeks ago.  Winkerbean is sitting alone on the bleachers in the high school gym.  He’s wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, thick glasses and a pocket protector.  As he watches some of his classmates work out on the gym floor, he says to himself, “I’ll bet the popular kids aren’t as happy as they seem to be.  In fact I’ll bet that they feel a lot of hurt, pain and confusion.”

            Then moving the the last frame he says to himself, “At least I hope so!”

            Many of us identify with Funky Winkerbean.  Some people appear so much happier than the rest of us.  Some people seem to get more out of life that we do, and to be honest, many of us hope all this is an appearance.  We hope it is a facade, that underneath it all these people are just as hurting and confused as the rest of us.  What if, however, some people actually are happier than we are?  What if some people do get more out of life than we do?  What if some people know more about abundant living than we know?

            Well, some people do know more than we do and some people do get more out of life than we do and we call them eagle flyers.  We get the term from the Bible.  In the Bible God tells us that if we do certain things we will soar with eagles, and that’s what eagle flyers have done.  They have cooperated with God.  They have put certain biblical principles into practice in their lives, that have resulted in their experiencing a quality of life unknown to many of us, and in this series we are learning about these biblical principles so that we can soar with the eagles as well.  Thus far we have investigated two eagle flyer practices, allowing for trouble and taking charge of our futures.  Today we turn our attention to allocating time for personal renewal.

            One of the things I enjoyed about Trudy’s family when we were dating was they had a pool table.  That pool table was where Trudy’s father and I bonded.  Trudy’s father and I are both introverts, and we don’t know what to say to people after we say, “Hello,” and the pool table became our safe place.  As Trudy’s father and I would play pool, we could talk about the game of pool.  We could talk about good shots, bad shots, lucky shots and between those topics we would sneak in other subjects.  I would ask him about work and how it was to be the father of four girls.  He would ask me about college, what I thought about my work at the YMCA, and what I was going to do after college, the sort of questions fathers ask young men who might end up marrying one of their daughters.

            Anyway, as I thought about our topic for today the game of pool came to mind.  You see, the game of pool has a cycle to it.  The cycle begins with the rack.  One takes a triangular wooden rack and places the balls inside with the eight-ball in the center.  Once the balls are in proper order that rack is lifted and someone is given the honor of the “break,” and the term “break” is a good description of what happens.  The breaker approaches the table and smacks the cue ball down the length of the table to crash against the balls, sending them in every direction.  The rest of the game involves picking off the balls one by one, sending each one into a pocket.  After someone wins, the balls are collected and racked again for the next game.  That’s the cycle: rack, break, shoot, win.

            Life is a lot like pool.  In life the game begins with the forming of our hopes and dreams.  They are protected in a safe rack, but then people, frustrations, problems, challenges, disappointments, and discouragements come at us like cue balls threatening to back our lives apart.  As these things come at us, our lives scatter like the balls on a pool table, and if we are not careful these cue balls will drain us of energy and leave us groggy, confused, and worn out.  Thankfully, however, there is a reforming stage, a re-racking stage, where the scattered pieces of our lives are collected and placed in the rack, ready for the next game.

            We see Jesus honoring this cycle in our passage for today.  We observe him re-racking the disciples, re-forming them.  The disciples have just returned from a preaching and teaching tour.  They have been doing some door to door evangelism in twos.  Jesus did not want to them to become discouraged or lonely so he sent them out in pairs, and their time away was exhausting.  They had met with success and failure and after hearing about the reports about life on the road, Jesus suggests they get away to a lonely place to re-group, re-charge, re-rack their lives.

            And that’s what eagle flyers have learned to do.  They have learned the importance of re-forming.  They have learned that life comes at us like cue balls, knocking us about, and on a regular basis they need to be re-racked.  And this re-forming process must happen to us regularly and systematically if we want to maintain a passion for and an enjoyment of life.  What follows are some strategies for doing that.

            Strategy #1 for personal renewal: attach yourself to upbeat people. 

            Maybe you noticed that Jesus chose the twelve and within the twelve he hung out with three particular guys: Peter, James and John.  Why these three?  I am convinced it was because they were upbeat people.  In fact, Peter was so upbeat that sometime he got himself into trouble as evidenced by the time he told Jesus that he would never have to suffer and die.  Jesus had to correct him.  I guess one can become too upbeat.  One can ignore trouble and Peter was that sort of a guy.

            Gordon MacDonald divides people into five categories ... VRPs, VIPs, VTPs, VNPs and VDPs.  VRPs are “Very Resourceful People.”  They are our mentor’s, the shapers of life.  We draw great energy from them.  As we look back on our live, they are our heroes, our models.  Jesus was a VRP to the disciples.

            VIPs are “Very Important People.”  Where VRPs ignite our vision, VIPs share our vision.  They are our close friends and fellow workers.  Barnabas was a VIP to the Apostle Paul.  Peter, James and John were VIPs in Jesus life.

            VTPs are “Very Trainable People.”  These people catch our vision and carry it on.  Timothy was one of Paul’s VTP’s.  The disciples were VTP’s in Jesus life.  Then there are VNPs.  These are “Very Nice People.”  They smile at us and treat us nicely, but they do not have a great impact on our lives or us on them.

            Finally, there are VDPs, “Very Draining People.”  These people sap our energy.  They drain our passion.  They suck us dry.  They demand our time and energy.  Judas was a VDP to Jesus.

            Gordon MacDonald recommends that we be careful to limit the number of VDPs in our lives.  He also says something else.  He says we also need to make sure we have a generous supply of VRPs and VIPs around us.   Taking all this into consideration, you might want to check on your people involvement.  If we are spending too much time with draining people rather than energizing people, no wonder we are losing our enthusiasm for life.

            Strategy #2: Feed your spiritual life with care.  Listen to the words of Loy McGinnis from his book The Power of Optimism.


            Those who are able to stay energetic and enthusiastic over the long haul tend to have strong religious beliefs.  Not all go to church, but I’ve noticed that there are few atheists among the go-getters, the crack salespeople, the hopeful of this world.  So, if you find that your energy has evaporated and that you’ve lost some of your zest for the future, it may be that your spirituality needs a new commitment, that you must carve out time for reading and thinking about your faith, and above all, for prayer.


            What turns your crank spiritually?  Is it spending time in nature?  Is it being in a supportive small group?  Is it serving the poor?  Is it vacuuming the church building?  Is it teaching small children.  Is it building affordable housing for the economically challenged?  Is it reading the Bible or singing in the choir?  Whatever it is, make time for it.  In reading over the life of Jesus one of the things that stands out was all the time he set aside to care for himself spiritually.  Throughout the gospels we see him doing something like he suggest the disciples do here: go off to a lonely and solitary place to pray.  

            Could we be missing something because we have not guarded our spiritual life?  Could we be worn our, confused, discouraged, or depressed because we are attempting to do things with our own power instead of God’s power?  The counter intuitive words of Francis de Sales come to mind ... “We should listen to God at least thirty minutes a day, except of course, when we are very busy.  Then we should make it an hour.” 

            Eagle flyers know of what de Sales speaks.  They take great care in feeding themselves spiritually because they know the positive, energizing affect it has on them.

            Strategy #3: talk with young children.  Wordsworth said that children come into the world “trailing clouds of glory,” and it is virtually impossible to stay down for long if there are children nearby.

            A number of years ago I was on my way to make hospital calls.  As I was walking from my office to the car I was concerned I would not be able to squeeze in all the hospital visits I wanted to make and get back to the church for a four o’clock meeting.  A young child stopped me on the sidewalk and said, “We saw your house yesterday.”

            I said, “Oh, that’s nice.  How did you know it was my house?  Did your mom or dad show you where I live?”

            “No,” he said.  “But don’t you live in a brown house with big double doors and a church pew on your front porch?”

            I replied, “No, that wasn’t my house.  My house does not have a church pew in front of it.”

            I chuckled the rest of the way to the car.  I guess he thought if there was a church pew on the front porch it had to be his pastor’s house!  My intense mood lifted.  A smile was on my face.

            An openness to children will inevitably lead to a renewal of the spirit.  I think that’s why Jesus hung out so much with them to the dismay of the disciples  Jesus wanted to get in touch with a child’s enthusiasm for life.

            Then fourthly, and finally, strategy #4: honor your day off. 

            I received a letter in the mail from a supposed friend of mine.  It read,


            Dear Friend,


Perhaps you have heard of me and my nationwide campaign in the cause of temperance.  Each year for the past fourteen, I have had a tour of Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa delivering a series of lectures on the evils of drinking.  On this tour I have been accompanied by my good friend and assistant, Clyde Linnon, a young man of good family background.


Clyde is a pathetic example of life ruined by excessive indulgence in whiskey.  Clyde would appear at the lectures, sit on the platform drunk, wheezing and staring at the audience through bleary and bloodshot eyes, sweating profusely, and picking his nose while I would point him out as an example of what indulgence can do to a person.


This summer, unfortunately, Clyde died.  A mutual friend has given my your name, and I wonder if you would be able to take Clyde’s place on my 2008 Fall Tour.


Yours in Good Faith,

Reverend Elton “Salvation” Jones


            I have a friend that I could take on the road with me.  He, too, is a pathetic figure, not because of alcohol indulgence, but rather because he does not honor his days off or take regular vacations.  He is a accident waiting to happen.  Moreover, my friend thinks he’s doing just fine.  He does not see that his emotions are raw, that he looks haggard, that he would do his family, friends, and himself a great favor if he honored his day off.  After all, even God rested on the seventh day.