Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How does this thing work?

“But I’m here to show you what it’s really like to live. To show you the best possible, most life giving way to exist.” (John 10:10 RSV)

One of the most annoying things about moving into a new place is filling it – especially when you don’t have a lot to fill it with. As we moved into our most recent place, my roommates and I combined to have ourselves…drumroll please… a television, television stand, and DVD player. Yes, that is all. Couches? Nah. Kitchenware? No chance. Bed? Come on, let’s not be ridiculous. So as you can imagine while the last month has been spent carrying out our various soccer vocations, it has also been spent scouring craigslist and badgering friends for used (but still awesome) ‘stuff.’ And while we still aren’t finished, we are a long way from where we started.

Our most recent purchase has been a grill; but not just any grill. We are talking about the lean mean, fat reducing grilling machine, George Foreman Grill. It fits in our apartment, follows the no actual grill on the patio rule, and reduces our protein fat intake. Not bad at all. We ripped it out of the box and started grilling some chicken right away.

Because it is the beginning of the season, as a team, we are also working on getting settled. Guys are coming in day by day and different players are coming in on trial. As things have yet to be set, some guys living situations aren't exactly ready for them yet. Being one of the few groups of guys on the team not married and not with a host family, we get asked to host players from time to time. On this particular occasion, we were hosting a newly signed midfielder. Not only had he been newly signed, he had also become and brand new believer.

Like out of the box new.

Still very much fighting his old life with so many questions, we would sit and dialogue with this guy. I would love to say we perfectly and without issue answered every single question he asked.

I can’t.

I’d love even more to say he asked really easy questions. You know, the ones we are taught to answer perfectly, with scripture references and everything?

He didn’t.

This guy actually cared. He was legitimately curious. And he didn’t ask about Heaven, or ‘being in’, or saying a prayer. No, all of his questions had to do with today. He wanted to know why so much bad happens with a good God. Why Christians stand out as some of the biggest hypocrites out there. What to do when we call out to God and He doesn’t seem to answer, or maybe even care. What good is the Bible anyway? This guy’s stuff was tough!

It was apparent this guy didn’t need a faith that would get him to Heaven. This guy needed a faith that would bring heaven to him! In the midst of talking with him, I have come to a deeper understanding and realization of what I have thought for quite a while now:

I need a Jesus for today.

Yes, someday, we will inherit Heaven, and all its glories. We will get incredible crowns to lay back down at Jesus’ feet. Sin will be washed away. There will be no more tears, no more pain. It will be awesome

But there still is suffering today.

There is still sin,

There are still tears,

There is still pain.

If Jesus can’t be some source of hope for today, for now, how can I ultimately trust him with my eternity? Do I even want to?

And as I have wrestled with this I am blessed to come back to the same conclusion: the Christian life is the best life to live. I ultimately believe that forgiveness and grace far outweigh grudges. That patience and love beat out a ‘have it my way’ theory. That to serve and give to others defeats a me first attitude.

Ultimately I believe this to be the case for two reasons.

1. I see it in everyday life.

There are fewer things that catch our eyes with more clarity than beauty, redemption, grace, and mercy. The list goes on, but we love to see these stories unfold before our own eyes. This redeeming part of humanity is absolutely beautiful.

2. God’s word is littered with this reality.

Throughout the scriptures God give his people guidelines and ideas for how to live. I think too often we think of these as dos and don’ts - laws that get in the way of our living. The reality is, these have all been set up to protect us. These have all been put into place so that we might be able to live life the way it was meant to be.

And who knows better than our creator. Who would be better fit to help us understand the best way to operate other than the God who made us. The one who knit us together, knows our in and outs, the actions we take, and the words we speak.

As we continued to dialogue, I actually began to think about our newly acquired George Foreman. See, as we originally popped that thing out of the bag and threw the chicken on it, we all started asking each other, “Well how long does it stay on for?” “Do we need to flip the chicken?” ”What does this button do?”

So what did we instinctively turn to? The instructions, of course.

I mean, who would know how better to use the device than the original creator?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fulfilling Requirements

"Over here! Pick Me! Tag Me in! Come to me. I want to do this with you." (Ezekiel 36:36-37 RSV)

I’m back! Not so much to blogging, but rather to life as I knew it near the end of 2010. The past few weeks have been crazy as I have been resettling myself in Charlotte. I have moved apartments, added a roommate, picked up an additional job, and spent an inordinate amount of time at Chic-Fil-A. I am a bit more ‘in place’ at this point as I try to orient the next several months here.

As most of the 4 people who glance at this know, I spent the end of November and all of December and January back in Chicago. Yes, currently, I am doing Southeast summers and Midwest winters; I am a moron. While back in Chicago I work in house for a company called Crown Graphics. ‘The Shop’ as it is effectively called wears many, many different hats. Most days it is a silkscreen and embroidery business. On others, it is a budding soccer agency business (check it out And still other days it operates as a research venue for new business ventures the likes of RedBox, Storage Wars, and Pawn Shops. Every day however, there is some form of joke or laughter that takes place; usually at someone else’s expense. It is inevitable. Those who are in or around ‘the shop’ joke that A&E should come in and do a reality show. I have no doubts people would watch it.

While in Charlotte, my role with Crown is different as I am not on site. I do more distance based sales, and am helping to build the Bridges agency. When I am in town though, I help with all of the day to day aspects of the print side. There are screens to be cleaned, shirts to be boxed and shipped, film to be made, and of course items to be screened.

Since screening is the majority of the business we do, it is guarded heavily. Though not a particularly difficult task, in theory, if you mess up it costs the business money. There is a certain art to it and while I am making it sound potentially more difficult than it is, there really isn’t a whole lot of margin for error. No new employee screens. It is a process in which over a period of time you are anointed an ability to take the steering wheel.

After lots of mess ups on sample shirts and ink order the task becomes fairly simple. It can be a one man job and doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking. On big shirt orders it can tend to get a bit tedious.

During one week I was screening a rather large order for a best friend of mine. (Check out his blog: Chip is in charge of the Freshman Experience at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids. He has basically flipped the thing on it’s head in the past year and asked that we make some shirts for all of his freshmen.

The design on the front was a cool, albeit dizzying pattern that looked a little bit like something out of Dr. Mario. Want to disagree? I screened it over 500 times. I’m pretty confident I’m correct in my analysis.

On the back was a simple line; right below the neck on the upper back. In a skyish blue read the words: “Build a Life That Matters.”

I can’t imagine it takes much to see the ridiculous irony in this.

I sat there, listening to oldies, painting the phrase “Build a Life That Matters’ on over 500 T shirts. Put shirt on board, screen down, wipe the ink across, screen up, shirt on dryer. Repeat.

I screened in borderline agony as these t shirts screamed out to me, questioning, “Are you building a life that matters?”

It is a question that for those who know me, has more or less haunted me for a some time. Have you ever felt like this? We are told in the Scriptures that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). I cannot speak for you, but I for one have been given much. I have won the parent lottery. I am educated, well traveled, well experienced, and fairly well versed. The ‘much given’ part is definitely in tact.

And in a quest for ‘required’ I have been in 4 cities in 4 years. I have coached, played, sold, moved, input, and handed out just to name a few. I have yet to find that I have filled this required mandate. I have yet to find exactly what it is that is being asked.

So often I just want the simple answer. I want someone, I want God to just tell me what ‘much required’ is. I want to just know. Tell me so I can go and do it. Tell me, so that it can be done; finished.

Others’ grass seems so freaking green and it drives me crazy.

And yet in the midst of this tension, we are offered comfort.

My favorite analogy is that contrasting a hospital room and a rain storm. In the hospital room everything is so neat. Everything is clean. All of the sheets are folded perfectly. The word that gets thrown around in hospitals is sterile. Everything is sterile. It has to be. With all of the sickness and disease in a hospital you don’t want to risk the spread to other rooms and subsequently patients.

On the contrary, this morning as I went out to church I sprinted to my car through pouring rain. I tried to take a short cut through the grass and landed in a massive puddle. As I looked around the flower and tree beds, they were all overflowing with mud and mulch. It was disgusting. It was gross, and dirty, and anything but sterile. But this mess will result in beauty in the coming weeks. Spring will arrive and buds will be in blossom. Grass will be green and animals will be all over the place. The reality that any gardener will tell you is that growth happens in the mess.

Our lives mirror the exact same reality.

Our lives are shaped in process; in the mess. See, I had read the back of those shirts all wrong. My brain actually read, HAVE a life that matters (1). The beauty of what was actually written was in the opening word: BUILD.

Building is messy. There are wood shavings, marks on the floor, mistakes, trash to be taken out. A house isn’t just a take out of the box and add water product. Our lives are no different. Even Jesus grew (Luke 2:52). He was subject to the same mess.

And I could be wrong, but I believe we serve a God who loves to see his children in process. He struggles when we make wrong turns, he cringes when our own actions lead to pain, and he is ecstatic to see our successes and our growth. He loves to partner with us in figuring out ‘required.’

I have to believe that if God were a T Shirt guy, he might in fact have one that reads, “Building Lives That Matter.”

(1) Even that understanding is ironic and misplaced. Having a life that matters is already established as a follower of Christ.