Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meal Time

“Bring what you have there; nothing more, nothing less.  I just want to eat with you.” (John 21:10/12 RSV)

Well, tonight in about one hour (from when I started this, anyway) is the Parenthood season finale.  I have written about the show in this blog before, but I honestly could do 20-30 entries from the show alone.  It’s brilliant.  If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and check it out.  If you have Netflix, you can currently see seasons 1 and 2.  What a deal, right?!

How do I know that you ask?  Well, because I have been watching them on Netflix for the past several weeks.  I know, I know.  Pathetic.  Add it to the list, folks.

The basic plot is a large extended family that all lives in a very close proximity and does basically everything together.  The four Children (Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia) all get along pretty well and are clearly different from one another.  Fast forward past the descriptions if you already know (or don't care)…

Adam is the older brother.  He has a good job, good family, and more or less keeps all the siblings together.

Sarah is kinda a wreck.  Divorced from an addict, she lives back with her parents with her two (sometimes troublesome) children.

Crosby is the wandering brother that can’t seem to stay committed to anything.

Julia is the feminist, driven lawyer that is very controlling.

In looking back at some of the old episodes (I hadn’t seen most of them before) I loved the pilot.  I always love the pilot.  In any good show it sets an incredible stage.  It introduces the characters, lets us into their lives, and gives us just enough of a taste for what might come up.  In any good story we are made to feel a part of it.  A pilot then, suffices as an introduction; a first impression.

As Adam is running through the neighborhood, a number of problems come his way.  His dad wants his attention, his wife is wondering where he is and his sister, Sarah, is calling him on the phone.

As he answers we learn that Sarah is in Fresno.  She is trying to pack up her life.  She’s decided to move with her children back in with her parents.  She’s leaving her job, her ex husband, her kids' comfort zones, everything!

Have you ever done this, or felt like you have?  Maybe it was leaving home to go to College.  Maybe it has been a move from a job.  Maybe it has been an identical situation.

If you know me, you know I have.

I’ve moved home not once, but twice.  Indefinitely each time.  Talk about a charmer for the ladies.

On the other end, I have left home-with no real idea what was waiting for me on the other end.

I cannot definitively speak for you, but I think we have all been in a Sarah Braverman type of situation before.  It's not an easy place to be.  No promise is offered and we are left running through all of the other possibilities in our head.

As Sarah starts talking to her older brother, she lists all of the reasons why moving back is a terrible idea.  Sound like you?  I’ve certainly been there.

Adam reassures her it will all be fine--that this is a very good decision; the right decision by telling her, “If it’s not good, you can blame me.”

“Good.  That’s what I wanted!”, Sarah snaps back.

Isn’t that us?!?! 

Don’t we want someone to blame if everything goes wrong?  If our house of cards topples to the ground, we want to point the finger at someone else!

Adam himself knows he’s lying.  Sarah ultimately knows this is her decision.  Blame rests nowhere but on her.  Too often I find myself figuratively, and literally praying this to God.  I say, just fill in ‘much required’, God.  If I just knew what you specifically wanted, I would do it.  Just show it to me!

Sound like you at all?

I’m not sure in my prayer it’s an earnest desire to know exactly what God wants.  If I am honest, I think it is my desire to use God as a scapegoat. 

All the while I really think God sees the map of our lives much like a nice dinner. My friend Joe shared this with me. In trying to keep the analogy simple, if we were to go to dinner with God I don’t think he would care what we order.  He wouldn’t really care if we got the chicken, the steak, some pasta, or a veggie dish.  I think ultimately he just want to spend some time enjoying the company of his kid.

I like that.

In sharing many meals with my parents over the years, (ok and now, again…) they have never demanded I order something specific off of the menu.  They just love to be with me; to spend time getting to know me, and me them.  See I don’t think our decisions are hit or miss.  I ultimately think God just wants to be with his children.

Sarah, then, like ourselves has to make the decision.  Is just being together enough?  Is the adventure valuable in and of itself?  

And while I won’t answer what happens with Sarah and Adam, the undecided future for us looks positive. Whatever is next; whether it’s the fish or the hamburger, we have to be sure the second Adam (1 Corinthians 10:45) is the one eating with us.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Swimming Lessons

“Because anyone who wants to come to God has to believe that they can jump, and he will catch them.  He won’t let them drown.  He will reward their efforts.” (Hebrews 11:6 RSV)

By all accounts it has been a very mild Chicago winter.  With that said, I am ready for it to be over.  I was outside with my dad the other night grilling and we both agreed how great summer is in Chicago, and how ready we were for it to get here.  I love all things summer.  I love warm weather, cook outs, outdoor activities, and the pool. 

I really love the pool.

Maybe it’s because my dad was a swimmer.  Others suggest it is because I am part fish.  Anyone who knows me will affirm how much I love to swim.  Spending winters in Chicago put a damper on that. 

Now, while it’s not the same, there are these things they invented called indoor pools.  While they aren’t the same, they help addicts like myself get through the long winters.

A few weeks ago when I was in Atlanta for my friend’s wedding, I found myself in the hotel pool playing around with all of his cousins.  All under the age of 6, and less than 70 lbs, more importantly, I made some instant friends as I tossed and flipped kids through the air while happy parents sat on the deck happy it wasn’t them getting splashed or dunked under water.

I laughed as I left for the afternoon when 3 different parents half jokingly, but fully seriously said, “Same time tomorrow!”

The next day I was unable to get to the pool.  I had to get a workout in before all of the wedding festivities.  The pool was right next to the workout area (I refuse to call it a gym) and I could look into the poor Dad that took my place.  This time it was him getting dragged under and asked to launch kids as far as he possibly could. 

Meanwhile, on one of the sides of the pool, another Dad was working with his young kids, trying to get him to jump into the pool.  You’ve seen it before, right?  Dad is about 2 feet away begging his son to jump to him.  The boy reaches, and reaches, and reaches some more. 

I think that my relationship with God mirrors this.

So often I find myself standing at the edge.  I reach and I reach and I reach.  All I want God to do is grab me and place me somewhere safe.

But he doesn’t do that.

It would rob me of the possible joy.

I think he stands there, arms wide open and invites me into his arms.  Not unlike Peter I see the arms.  I see the water.





And ultimately the choice is up to me.  The amount of trust required this time might be more than in the past.  Dad might be standing a bit farther from the ledge than last time.  He wants to increase my trust, but it doesn’t come without risk.  He hasn’t let me drown to this point, but I haven’t jumped this far yet. 

You know exactly what I am talking about.  What part of the deep end is God asking us to dive into?





It is something, isn’t it?

For this young kid it’s literally about jumping into the pool.  He is almost crying he wants his dad to just reach out and grab him.

But Dad is relentless.

His boy is going to have to jump.

As I watch the young boy finally give in and jump towards Dad, he splashes the water and Dad is right there to grab him.  I see a huge smile on his face and echoes of laughter – both from father and son.

But similarly to our relationship with God, this father and son only enjoy the moment for a second before Dad props his son back up on the ledge.

This time however, not unlike our father, Dad takes a step back. His boy is going to have to grow his faith in him; only to find more joy after the leap.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Veggie (Fairy)Tales

"Don't think you're gonna get fit by pretending to be healthy.  Actually live in such a way that promotes good health." - James 1:22 (RSV)

I really, really, really like to eat.  It’s a borderline love affair.  Do you ever have the feeling where you are sitting at a meal and though you are full, you continue to eat just because it tastes good.  Yeah, We’ve all been there. 

The reality is nowadays I would say I tend to eat healthier than most of my single male counterparts.  However, this does not stop me from the pursuit of the delicious calorie free ice cream.  (Hey, we can all dream, right?)

When I am eating with a group, particularly when I am trying to get in better shape, or trying to lose a few lbs, everyone will know that I am eating bird like and that no wasted calories can be taken in.  It is just salad, sans dressing of course, lean chicken, fruits, and veggies for this guy. 

I like having that stereotype about me.

I like people thinking that I am healthy.

I like that people think I’m disciplined.

But here’s the problem…When no one is looking; or awake, I have a tendency to find the bag of chips, the ice cream carton, or open late fast food line. 

There it is, I said it.

More often than not I find a way to sneak in indulgences without anyone knowing.  After all, I can’t have people think I am not as fit as I want them to.

Equally, if I am gut-level honest, I want people to think that I know Jesus.  Like eating healthy, more often than not I am quite disciplined in my spiritual disciplines.  I like to read lots of different Christian books.  I even listen to sermons on Moody Radio!  (Another sign of how old I am getting?  Don’t answer that.)

But other times, I am incredible at pretending I know Jesus.  I reference things I have read or things I have heard other people say.

On the one hand, the scriptures are quite clear: enjoy the applause you get because that’s all that is coming.

Paul goes on noting that knowledge only puffs up, while love builds up.  I love that idea.  I liken it to healthy eating.  Public displays of discipline make ourselves look amazing.  But it’s the moments in front of the pantry when everyone else goes to bed that really matter.

On the other hand, the reality is absolutely no one will know.

See if I continue to say that I am eating well but I show up a few weeks later plus about 10 pounds, it’s pretty clear that I am lying.  There is no way around that.

The same cannot be said of spiritual discipline.

As long as I read a chapter here and there, brush up on a recent Christianity today, eat my spiritual vegetables ‘once in a while’ publicly, everyone will think I am exceptionally healthy.

The only problem is, I am completely dying on the inside.

The Bible talks about producing fruit – that being the measure of a life a part of Christ.  Just like in the produce world, the proof is in the tasting.  At my house, directly across from where I type this my mother has a basket of pears.  They are well colored, shaped, and sized; incredibly pleasing to the eye.  Take a bite and you risk losing a tooth in the wood.

Spiritual fruit is no different.  I went to a Christian school; two of them actually.  I can produce fruit finer looking than most.  But just like with David, we serve a God who looks at the heart. 

This can either be the most beautiful music to our ears,


 the most condemning news for our souls.

In the end, I need to consume as much of the good stuff that I can.  Just like healthy things in our day-to-day lives (see also: Daniel), spiritual disciplines produce works in our life that bring glory to, and honor God; regardless whether other people observe them.  Additionally, these are the very things that draw me closer to the God who loves and knows me best. 

Because in the end, that late night poor decision only leaves me disappointed and with a stomach ache the next morning anyway.