Staying Within the Lines

Do you remember when you were coloring in your favorite coloring book and someone in authority (parent or teacher) would remind you to stay within the lines of the drawing on the paper?

The pictures hung on the walls for admiration were all of those pictures neatly shaded between the lines. The pictures were perfect. . .just the right colors in just the right places.

But what they had in neatness, they lacked in energy. So, most of us learned to color any way we wanted to – lines or no lines. It was our picture, our art, and no one had the right to tell us how to color.

“Coloring outside the lines” went from a kindergarten rebellion to vision statement about how we live. We refused to recognize any limits. We wouldn’t pay attention to any lines. We’d live as free and wild as we pleased.

Well, let’s just say that didn’t work out too well. Our world and most of the people in it are a wreck.

Here’s the hard truth: human beings have limits.

We can only run so fast, jump so high and know so much. To be human is to be limited. The wisest of us learn these limits aren’t necessarily punishments, but guides.

After all, it’s the tightening of light waves that gives us the power of the laser.

It’s the banks of the river that gives the river its energy. Without the banks, the river quickly becomes a pond.

When we learn to focus (limit) our lives, we are our most creative and productive selves.

No, we can’t do everything. We were never intended to do everything. We were created to focus. We were created to do what matters.

Yes, we have limits. And that’s good news.

We can’t do everything, but we can do what’s important.

Who would have ever thought that living within the lines brings us the greatest freedom of all?

Why Men Don’t Wear Hats in Church

Before leading his team into the Sugar Bowl played that year in the New Orleans Superdome, Coach “Bear” Bryant was asked why he wasn’t wearing his trademark “hounds tooth” hat.

“Because,” he said, “Mama told me not to wear my hat indoors.”

We’re a few generations from the days when a well-chosen hat was part of a gentleman’s attire. In those days, a young man would have been educated in proper hat etiquette. A young man would have learned how to tip his hat to a lady, and which hats were considered “work” hats and which hats were considered “dress.”

We went through a time when no one except coaches wore hats. Now, hats are coming back and guys are wearing them again. Of course, they aren’t wearing them the way our grandfathers did. Hats (mostly ball caps) are being worn sideways, backwards and …they’re being worn inside and even in church.

This has caused an occasional moment of frustration among some senior adults who see young adults wearing hats in the sanctuary as rude and young adults who see the senior adults as curmudgeons trapped in Victorian concepts of style. As with most things, both sides are a little bit right and a little bit wrong.

A long time ago, hats were worn as a sign of status. You could tell a person’s social rank by their hat. The more grandiose the hat, the more important was the person. So, when a man came into the church, he would remove his hat as a way of saying no one has any standing before Christ. In this way, we’re all the same. We’re all sinners in need of grace. No one is more important or less important; no one is better than the other or worse. We all stand bare headed at the foot of the cross to remind ourselves of this.

Now, we don’t wear hats so much as signs of rank, but signs of our individuality and our “cool.” Hats now are all about style. They’re about statements. We want people to notice us. We want to tell them about who we are, what we believe and what we think matters.

And that’s why we take our hats off when we come into the church. The church is all about Jesus. Anything that would draw attention away from Jesus to ourselves is wrong. A preacher who draws too much attention to themselves and takes attention away from the message is wrong. A soloist who makes it all about them is wrong.

And hats that make it about us and not about Jesus…well, they’re wrong.

A long time ago, men took their hats off because no one out ranked Jesus.

Now, we take our hats off to remind people, “Ain’t nobody cool here but Jesus.”

There Are No Orphans

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child…” so begins the old blues song. The reason the blues have been so influential and enduring is they accurately describe the way we feel. All of us recognize that line. We’ve all felt like that at one time or another.

There are a lot of people who feel that way now.

In the early church, it wasn’t unusual for new believers to show up at a church having lost everything. Once they decided to become a follower of Christ, some would have been disowned by their families. Young men and young women would have been thrown into the streets with no place to go. So they would go to the church.

And the church would take them in. They would be given a family—a mom, a dad, brothers and sisters. They would be given a home.

Now, we live in a culture where families break up and leave many emotionally, physically, and spiritually homeless. So they come to the church.

The postmodern church has to relearn this survival skill of taking in “orphans.” Senior adults have to become more engaged with young adults. Young adults have to be open to relationships with senior adults. Friends have to take friendship more seriously. Young men should start viewing young women in their church as sisters and the young women should see young men as their brothers. Both should look out for each other.

One of the most powerful witnesses of the early church was their love for each other.

Once again, the love we have for each other will be one of our strongest messages to our postmodern world. This is why the New Testament emphasizes the metaphor of “family” for the people of God.

It’s God way of making sure there are no orphans in His world.


I’m not a big joiner. I’m not a member of many clubs or organizations.

Having said that, I am the member of a local church.

OK, I know you’re saying, “Mike, you’re a pastor. You have to be a member of church.

“Fair enough, however, just because I do something that’s part of my job doesn’t mean I don’t believe in it. I believe in the local church.”

Here’s the short version. First, life is too hard to live by yourself. Everyone needs a community.

Sooner or later, life will get you. It may be a surgery, stopped up pipes in your kitchen, anything and everything in between. One day, you’re going to need friends.

And on the day when you don’t need friends, you’re going to need to be a friend. Everybody gets a turn. If you’re not there, who answers the call?

If you’re a Christ-follower, you belong to the church.

You’re part of the family. The only question left is what kind of family member you’ll be. We are accountable to and responsible for each other.

Remember, you didn’t choose this family. You were chosen.