Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 14 - Holy Anticipation

We were waiting in line just to get back to where we could get in line for the actual thing. It was building within. There was a feeling in my chest that I couldn’t describe but I knew how much of a rush it would be. I’m not talking about when they moved the gates so we could get in line, I’m talking about the rush of what was actually going to happen when we got there. However, that fifteen minutes waiting for them to open the gates so we could get back there and wait in another line felt like an eternity. When they finally opened the gates we walked as fast as we could without running or looking like “those people” but everyone around us knew exactly what was going on. Of course, no one judged us because they were doing the same thing, so why it wasn’t a mad dash I’m not sure, but we were all trying to save a little face and maintain composure in front of the total strangers that surround us.

Finally we made it. Well, we found where the line actually started. It will be another 20 minutes before we were seated and strapped in. It will just be seconds before we experience twenty seconds of the biggest rush of the year. That’s right we were sitting on the tallest/fastest roller coaster in all of America: “The Top Thrill Dragster”. As the cart moves forward slowly into the launching area we wait in yet more eager anticipation as we watch the cart ahead of us go over the big hill and plummet straight down and come to a screeching halt leaving the riders hair in a mess with a look of “what just happened” on their faces. When will it go? When will the lights signal that we are about to take off and experience the exact same rush? All of a sudden….. it happens. 3-2-1-green. And just like that we are off.

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. It was worth every second of waiting for what truly was an incredible rush. Typically the wait for this ride is more than double what we waited. People always ask, “Is it really worth that long of a wait for such a short ride?” Looking back on it, I would say that the wait actually made the ride more than what it was. What I mean was that I don’t know that the rush would have been the same if we had just walked straight on upon arrival and been loaded and launched just as quick as we got there. The anticipation magnified the whole experience to a level I can’t even describe.

We have all experienced this level of anticipation for one thing or another. No one has ever lived without anticipation. Whether it is the anticipation of waiting for a response from that girl that you asked out, or maybe it is waiting to hear the gender of a child, getting the test scores from the last final of the year or the lab results from a different kind of test. Sometimes it is simply anticipation of waiting for a miracle because we are in a dead –end situation.

Anticipation is just a part of our everyday life. And we aren’t alone in that. In fact, we are told that all creation is waiting in eager anticipation for the day that all things are made new. It is interesting that the imagery used when talking about this is like a woman in labor. It is the anticipation that things aren’t quite the way they are supposed to be right now, something is missing, something is about to happen. And then it arrives.

Of course the thing we are really waiting in eager expectation of is something much more grandiose than a 20 second ride or the news of a miracle. It is that day when all things are made new and there is no more hurting or sickness or pain or death. There is no more need for anticipation as all things are made new and we just get to sit back and enjoy the view and worship the King. What a day that will be. But until then we have our eyes locked on the lights waiting for them to count down 3-2-1 and the trumpet to sound. What a day that will be.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 10 - Here's to Marcus and Becky

Today a good friend of mine married his best friend. It was a beautiful ceremony and was quite the reception. It was clear that the two of them love and are loved by many.

Now when I say that Marcus is a good friend of mine I mean it. However, I have only known him for about a year now and really have only spent time with him on a few occasions. But I still count him as a good friend. It is funny how quick you can get to know someone and feel deeply connected when one or both parties are willing to be vulnerable and ask the right questions and go out on the right limbs. That is how I would describe Marcus. He came to work at CrossView last summer for 2 months, but in that time it was incredible how quick he developed some really deep relationships. Marcus would never ask you to go out on a limb he wasn’t willing to walk first though and I think that is what makes people so comfortable around him. It is as if his motto is, “well, I trusted you this much, now trust me.” I’m not sure if you have ever been around anyone like that but they have you sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings within minutes and you have no idea why you are sharing them, but it feels so natural. Tonight I watched as the dancing started as he had tons of people around him going crazy on the dance floor because he was willing to do anything to get the party started and once he showed people that it was a safe space people were willing to join him. That is the mark of a great leader.

At one point in the night he grabs a microphone to thank people for their love and support and starts naming off people in the room. There were people ranging from officers in the military to doctors to med students to people he did research with at Yale and at some point I am sitting there thinking to myself, “why am I here?” It was quite overwhelming to see how many people this couple has impacted in one way or another. I cannot describe the amount of times I have walked away from a short conversation with Marcus feeling so refreshed and encouraged whether I needed it or not and to see all these people around me that undoubtedly feel the same way.

I can’t say much about Becky, for my interactions with her are brief, however I do know that she can take a joke. One thing I learned early on (maybe before I met Becky) was her nickname, which I don’t know how many people know what it is or if I should say, so I won’t, but she is clearly a good sport. Basically she too is someone who is full of humility and a love for Jesus and that is very evident in the brief interactions I have had with her.

Whenever I perform a wedding I laugh a little because I always meet with the couple before they get married and encourage them to do some sort of pre-marital counseling. The reason I laugh is because I have had couples ask me to do their counseling and I have never been married (or even close if we are being honest), but I always just give them a picture of what the New Testament describes love as: two people who simply look to the needs of others above their own and is willing to do whatever it takes for the other (even if that means look like a fool to others). And when I look at Marcus and Becky that is what I see: two people who are willing to do anything for one another and together for others no matter what on-lookers might think. So here is to a couple that is full of grace and love for life, Jesus, and one
another. May God continue to bless this journey you are on together for many many years.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 8 - "The Home"

Today I was told to write about the word “home.” My first thought was, “well, that is where the heart is.” But clich├ęs aside I want to really think this through a little bit, so if you are reading I am going to give you my unfiltered and unedited thoughts this word evokes in my head.

There are probably as many varieties on what this word means as there are hair styles in the world. For some a home brings vivid thoughts racing through the mind. It is a place of stability and has been in the family for years. For some there is only one place they have ever called home while for others there have been so many variations of where home is and what it looks like that they really have no emotional attachment to any structure or building. There are some cases, like mine, where I have had two “homes” at a time for about as long as I can remember.

What makes a home a home? Is it simply a warm place to stay? Is it defined by the people who welcome you in when you arrive? Is it a place where memories are made?

I lived in a home with a couple of guys my last year of college. We were very intentional about calling it a home and not a house, because a house is just a building where people would come and go as they pleased, but a home was a sacred place; a home is where people could find rest and comfort; a home was where memories were made. As silly as that might sound we really did live by that. It was an odd arrangement. We were three guys who didn’t know each other well, but we all had a drive for hospitality in our own unique ways (and we had 6 bedrooms, so that made our house the place to be to stay the night). But we had the best mix of people come through. We had loud friends who would dance on the tables and we had the most reserved of people come in who would sit on our couches without saying more than necessary for it not to be awkward (which it was hard to make an awkward moment in our home). Our doors were never closed to anyone. Did that drive us crazy at times? Yes. But did we bond through it? You bet we did. There were so many personalities present that there were bound to be some doors slammed and some feelings hurt from time to time, but the mission of the home was so uniting that we didn’t have to get along at every moment in order to know that we were there with the same purpose.

It seems like a fairly good picture of what the church should look like. It is a group of people who welcome in all kinds of strange personalities. It is a place where people can find rest, hope, and love. And best of all it is a place where memories are made. Whenever there are people involved there are going to be hurt feelings and the proverbial or literal door slammed, however the church as described throughout the New Testament should be and will be a place where you would be able to find all the things present in a good home. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of our unifying mission and allow that to restore relationships that have been damaged, because there is something bigger we are living for rather than personal pride.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 7

One thing I have enjoyed since I was a little kid is taking pictures. I always loved landscape photography and would constantly be looking for that perfect shot. I think a lot of this desire to capture the perfect picture drove me to love traveling. Whenever I would see a magazine like National Geographic or Time or any sort of traveling magazine with incredible shots I would instantly want to travel to the place just so I could try and capture the same picture or even one-up the picture I saw. Back in the days when you had to load real film in the back of a camera it made it very difficult to hone this skill. In fact, I would often frustrate my mom who would be the one buying the film because I would experiment by trying to get a good angle on something and missing the mark therefore wasting a roll of film.

The digital world did help with this, as it simplified the editing and deleting process wasting no resource outside of a few seconds of time. When I got my own digital camera I went to town. My old computer is loaded with all kinds of pictures that I took, of which I still look at from time to time to get a good laugh. I remember a trip I went on with my friends from high school the summer after we graduated and while everyone was talking and entertaining themselves in the car on the way down I was taking pictures out the window of the beautiful Virginia mountains with the sun peaking between crests. In almost all of my travels I take more pictures of inanimate objects and landscapes than I do of the people I actually travel with.

There are photographers that I am envious of. Those photographers who really know how to capture the emotion of a moment. I think it is absolutely brilliant what some people are able to do with a camera. But what I have found is that it is actually impossible to literally capture a moment. This is a hard reality because there are moments that we share with people where we wish time would just stand still or that we could go back to those times and relive exactly what we felt at those very special moments. Chances are as you are reading this you have some moments flooding to your head without any prompting.

As I was writing this I didn’t know exactly where it was going, but I started to realize how much I can tend to live in the past and dwell on moments that have already happened. I go in waves of doing this, but I think the thing that God is trying to tell me is that I need to trust that there will be more moments. I don’t know what they will look like, but I won’t ever know as long as I am dwelling on the past. Obviously that is way easier said than done and there are still moments that I will hold on to and cherish all my life and that isn’t a bad thing. But I don’t want that to keep me from living in the present and making moments happen in the here and now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 5

Many people may not know, but one thing I enjoy is cooking. I haven’t always been good at it and I haven’t always enjoyed it but I found new comfort in it in the past three years or so. A big reason I didn’t like it for a long time was because there isn’t always a set formula to it. I was also the kind of guy who would not let any of his food touch because I wouldn’t want to commit the cardinal dinner sin. While there are still foods I won’t eat the list is nothing compared to the list I had as a child.

One thing I have learned is that there are (I have no idea where this sentence was going… that’s the problem of writing while watching a movie… no editing).

It turns out that there are always unique pairings of food that seemingly work. There are even foods that, by themselves aren’t that good, but paired with the right partner can make quite a delectable treat. I think there was a time when I genuinely believed that all combinations that work have been experienced already. Maybe this is a common thing, thinking that there isn’t anything new to experience in the world. It’s a sad reality in which to live. Some would completely agree and even use the words of Solomon to back it up when he said “there is nothing new under the sun.” But was he right? And to what extent should that be taken if it is true? Some say that there are no experiences you can possibly have that haven’t been had before.

But I’m not here to get too deep into the questions that surround Solomon. I’m interested in cooking tonight.

The beauty that I have found in cooking is the creativity and the experimenting with different things. Maybe it is true that there is nothing left to experience that hasn’t already been experienced, but if there is don’t tell me that when I get excited about something I just discovered. Because even if it has been discovered before it is brand new to me and I will get just as excited about it as the first person who ever found it. But I would have a hard time believing that all the possibilities in the world have been discovered. Where is the mystery and adventure in that? I don’t want to assume something is true that will suck the adventure and wonder out of life. I want to try new things. I want to experiment and find new ways of doing things that will bring me some joy. I want to go on an adventure. It is interesting that there are times when God invites people on adventures and starts by saying, “I am going to do a new thing through you.” Our God is a God of adventure and new experiences. He is a God who loves to blow our minds and show us things we would have never thought possible.

That is what we are all looking for. We don’t want the same old thing and a life of comfort. After all, we don’t really know what comfort is (see previous post). I’m looking for an adventure. And though I haven’t mentioned much about cooking at all, this is a lesson that I can see very clearly in the kitchen.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 4 - The Familiar: Failure

“Certainty is not a natural human experience… but faith; is second only to error.”

Sometimes the thing that holds people back from doing what they know they are supposed to do or what they know they want to do is the fear of failure. I know this fear has been something that has held me back from many things I have really wanted in life. What is interesting is failure is something I am more acquainted with than anything else in the world. Yet so many times I have been gripped by fear of failure to the point of paralysis.

In a world where we strive so desperately for certainty the only thing that is certain is failure. I know that you might be thinking this is a very negative statement and possibly a depressing post, but it is actually meant to be a freeing post. When we release the idea that everything has to be perfect and according to plan and accept that we are probably going to fail and sometimes even fail hard then we realize that there is actually a grace that covers us when we do. It is almost as if we were never meant to be perfect and in control. That is the beauty of this exercise I am doing because it takes the fear of failure and being above average out of the picture. There have been many times I have been paralyzed by a blank page, but not anymore. At least not the past few days, because all I do is sit down and start writing about anything that is on my mind. Granted I missed a post only 3 days into the challenge, but the nice thing is the rules say if you miss a day you don’t make up for it you just keep going as if you never missed a beat. It is as if they knew this would be challenging and people would run out of things to write about and the fear of a blank page and the fear of not having anything to say and the fear of failure would paralyze people, so they went ahead and built grace into the whole package.

It seems similar to life in a lot of ways. There are people who concern themselves too much with living the wrong way and they never end up living at all. Jim Carrey recently gave a commencement speech at a university where he talked about our insatiable thirst for security. He told a story about how his dad could have been a great comedian, but there were too many uncertainties that surrounded it so he got a “safe” job as an accountant. He went on to say that when he (Jim) was about 10 years old his dad lost that safe job and his family had to do whatever they could to make ends meet. He wrapped the story up by a simple line that has been sometime I have held onto for a while now and that line is: “You can fail at what you don’t want to do; so you might as well take a chance at doing something you love.”

Sure, you are going to fail. But success isn’t defined by those who don’t fall, but by those who are able to fall and pick themselves up again as if nothing ever happened. Failure is probably the most familiar human experience, so let us embrace it and keep moving forward doing what we were born to do.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 2

As I went to bed last night I thought to myself, “This 500 words thing is going to be fun.” By the time I woke up I was laying in my bed thinking, “Why did I do this? I have nothing left say!” And now I wish I didn’t start out by saying that, but the rules of engagement are very clear about no editing, so there is that.

I like to be someone who can simplify things for people in a way they are able to understand. I think it is very frustrating when you look at problem or a situation and see all these complex parts and you aren’t able to make sense of them. It can be quite paralyzing. I learned early in life that if you can break things into more manageable pieces then any task, no matter how complex, is achievable. One of the earliest examples of this I believe came from my grandma, who loves putting together puzzles. Not simple 15-20 piece puzzles, I mean massive 1,000 or more piece puzzles that take days and weeks to complete. The steps are simple and most people know how they would go about putting together that big of a puzzle, they just wouldn’t take the time to do it. But if you wanted to, the next step after dumping out the thousand pieces would be to separate them by edge pieces and middle pieces. Next you would probably sort them into color groupings and then you would find your corner pieces and start building your frame. Some of you might be thinking, “I would never start a puzzle in such a way.” Well, my grandma would so write your own blog about how to put a puzzle together! (Booya)

The point is, it is simple when you know the process. It doesn’t mean that each step of the process won’t take time, but as long as you know what the process is then you are able to complete the task if you give it time.
Sometimes we tend to take something that has a very clearly defined process and we muddy it up and make it way more complex than it needs to be. We start allowing all these other influences that may or may not know what they are talking about get us trying things and we don’t understand how they fit within our process that already works. When we allow that to happen it is extremely easy to get side-tracked and allow things to become complex once again.

This is leadership to me. What was once a very simple process became very muddy for me because I allowed different philosophies and structures to influence me without understanding how they fit into the process I already had established that was working. Lately I have been thinking of a time when I knew much less than I do now, but felt like I might have been a more productive leader. I find that very ironic that the more I knew the less effective I was becoming. What I am not saying is “education is pointless” in fact, I believe the opposite is true. What I am saying is that it is important to find a structure that works and stick with it and allow the new education to work within that structure. That is the piece I missed and so I allowed a lot of things jack with the structure I had in place. Leadership is actually quite simple. My philosophy is: leadership is influence. Relationships allow for trust and trust allows for influence. If you have influence, you are a leader.

I believe it is actually that simple. Let’s no longer complicate something that doesn’t need to be complicated.