What would it look like to get to the end of a busy season, a semester, a year…a life even, and have more and more to give than ever before?

Caleb is my go-to for leadership inspiration…the image of him as an 85-year-old man still rearing to go, still ready to fight, is awesome.

Throughout his whole story we read the mantra: “Caleb followed God wholeheartedly.”

I’ve blogged about Caleb before, but I am always convicted by his example. Never falling into bitterness or cynicism Caleb’s enthusiasm only grows and strengthens with time. He seems to have more and more to give.

I want to be like that. I want to be wholehearted.

Wholehearted (A Final Rolling Stones Post)

The third and final installment of a three part series (“Honing Our Chops”) that first appeared at Faith ON Campus:

[I recently finished Life by Keith Richards, lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. When most people think of the Stones they probably think of Mick Jagger first (no thanks to Keisha and Maroon 5). But Keith has really been the leader, glue, and engine for the band that turns 50 this year. I found a lot of what Keith writes about in Life to speak into my vocation as a Campus Minister. These are my reflections on Keith’s insights.]

“We just wanted to be a great blues band. That’s all we played [the blues], until we actually became it.” from Life, p. 158.

One of the themes that becomes very clear, very quickly, when reading Life by Keith Richards is that the Rolling Stones never set out to be an epic, culture changing rock n’ roll band. They were deeply influenced by the Chicago blues (Muddy Waters, etc), and that is, in many ways, how they still view themselves to this day: a Chicago blues band from London.

Not that they didn’t have ambition. They wanted to be a great band. But they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

When students show up on campus as freshmen there are some who just want to party, and a few others who are there to get a degree and get on with it, but the majority of students come with significant dreams and aspirations.

They may not say this to the first people they meet at school, but they come wanting, believing, even knowing, that they can, and will, change the world.

But then life happens, disappointments accumulate, frustrations with classes and professors set in, and some of the gleam and shine of college begins to fade.

There is a kind of lostness that many students wander through around the mid-way point of their college experience. Should I stay in this major? Should I transfer schools? Is this really worth all the money and debt?

I believe students wind up in this place for two reasons:

  1. They lack a specific vision for their life (I want to change the world sounds nice, but it is far too vague to sustain anyone for a long period of time).
  2. They have been taught to hold back

I picked up Life because, of course, I wanted to hear some incredible stories about the greatest rock band of all time. But I was also interested because this is the 50th anniversary of the band (a band that still includes 3 of the 5 originals and a fourth who has been around for almost 40 years). How do you stay in the game, let alone on top of the game, for that long? 50 years is an impressive marriage.

I think the two big reasons the Stones are celebrating a 50th anniversary are that they had a specific vision (to be the best blues band in London), and they did not hold back.

There are several scenes in the life of Jesus where he lets people in on the secret: this thing is headed to the cross…my mission is to be broken and poured out for you. Almost every time he says this someone tells him no, that’s a bad idea (see John 6 or Matthew 16).

Martin Buber speaks of taking either a “yes” or “no” position to life. Jesus was saying an emphatic yes to his vision, and he was not going to let some “no” position folks hold him back.

Campus ministers must help their students navigate the college experience with wisdom and sagacity. But, hopefully, not at the expense of taking a “yes” position in relation to our students.

Certainly they get plenty of the “no” position from many other sources.

One more Stones story. For the first four years of their existence the Stones were playing a gig or recording a song for all but 2 days of that period. Now certainly working everyday for four years is not healthy. But, here’s the really interesting thing: very little of what they played and produced during this time was original material. Most of their big original work took place in the ten years after this.

It’s almost as if those four years were their university years. And they threw themselves fully into this time: learning songs, learning how to play together, learning how captivate an audience, learning a sound, learning everything they’d need to know later on down the road (when they really did change the world).

A campus minister has the opportunity to guide students to a posture of “yes”. To help students find their “chicago blues” and to throw themselves fully into life.

The chops of wholeheartedness.

Finish Strong

It’s the final month of school for most of our students and people are starting to think about finals, summer jobs, traveling, internships, and all that good stuff. And, it is a super busy season for us…readying new leaders, finishing well relationally, planning new things, evaluating the year, etc, etc, etc. All on top of the normal rhythms of groups and one-on-ones and meetings.

I’m ready for vacation.

But I don’t want to check out early. At our last leadership community I shared with our students the story of Caleb. I always come back to Caleb when I think about finishing well, finishing strong.

Consider Caleb’s example (you can read about him in Numbers 13 and 14)…

  • He was one of only two Israelite spies (Joshua was the other) who saw how good the promised land was and believed the people could take it over.
  • He was sold out by the other 10 spies who freaked out because of the “giants in the land” and their weapons.
  • He and Joshua were the only two people from his generation allowed to enter the promised land.
  • He had to wander around the desert while his contemporaries died out, all the while knowing the good things he was missing out on. He had to question his fate a ton, I would think.
  • He went to a lot of funerals and dug a lot of graves.
  • And then, God picked Joshua to be the leader to take over from Moses. Joshua got the book deal, the twitter followers, the big church. Caleb had his life and his family and a hope for a plot of land.

If anyone had an excuse to give up, to lose hope, to become cynical or bitter or entitled or frustrated or angry or to quit, it was Caleb.

We don’t know much about what Caleb did for those 40 years, but we know how his story ends. He shows up again in Joshua 14. Everyone else had received their allotment of land, and finally Caleb says, “It’s time for me to take mine.”

And we read this:

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)

Then the land had rest from war.

Somehow, through all that, he still followed God wholeheartedly. He finished strong.

I love that image of 85-year-old Caleb still looking for a fight, still ready to go, still throwing himself fully into the work God had asked him to do. And somehow all of that contributed to peace in the land.

When I get tired I think about Caleb…I want to finish strong too.