Thursday, March 25, 2010

Making A Difference

I quickly changed the channel last Sunday. 60 Minutes was doing a report from Haiti. The suffering is unimaginable. Not for long though. I quickly changed the channel and found a game or a House Hunters episode or something like that. I’ve really been struggling with my purpose and if I’m really making a contribution to our world. I concurrently look at half million dollar homes while 29,000 children die of starvation each day.

My newly adopted city that I call home is not much different than other places I’ve lived: nice suburb, a Starbucks on each corner (which is where I currently am blogging), 2.6 kids per house, and everyone walks their dogs on clean, trouble-free sidewalks. I justify my moderate greed by pointing to corrupt third world leaders and a high cost of living in the U.S.

Am I really making a difference? After a new friend bought my coffee the other day (a cool story in itself), I had a meeting with a woman who has dedicated her life to the Lost Boys of Sudan. She’s looking for U.S. Americans to join with her to invest in these young men, using one of our greatest resources – money!

Five hours later I had coffee with a man who has become so concerned with social justice that he hopes to begin his own company with the intention of giving as much of his profits as possible to the needy.

The difference between the two? One is a follower of Jesus, the other is not. This is not surprising. You could say that both are “good” people who understand that life is not all about having as much fun as possible. Though one pursues God and the other one’s church is perhaps NPR and the EPA, I would say both have been living out the convictions of the Holy Spirit to varying degrees. Hear me out.

The mark of God is on every human being – some more than others, though you’d have to question that statement upon watching many people in action. The Bible tells us “God is love” and that Jesus is the “creator and sustainer of life.” Romans 2 says that we all have God’s imprint: our hearts and our consciences. So whether it be merely someone’s breath, showing an act of love, or making sacrifices for the poor – all humans reveal God’s fingerprint.

In Luke 4 Jesus announces that He is God’s anointed one who will temporarily and eternally free the oppressed and poor. His Jewish audience is amazed. Then he relates that his Father is seeking faith from all people, not just Jews. Then he gives two examples of extreme faith displayed by two Gentiles (non-Jews) from the Old Testament. The congregation becomes furious at his suggestion and proceeds to try to kill him.

For any Christians reading this entry, I submit that I haven’t lost my conviction that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the narrow gate we must walk to and through for reconciliation with God. But it’s time to see God’s hand at work not only in our lives, but also in the lives of those who haven’t fully understood or embraced him – especially if they’re surpassing our own selflessness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Northwest Barbecue

It don’t mean compared to “Texas Barbecue” or “St. Louis Barbecue.” And this isn’t a debate over Brisket (ho-hum), Tri-Tip (oh how I love thee), or Ribeyes (mmhmm).

We Frasers love our Barbecue. But truth be told, we haven’t barbecued in over 6 months. The obvious reason: the elements. You know the drill: a bit cold, a bit wet, and we don’t have a covered patio. But last night when Jana announced that she’d be barbecuing, I became giddy. I picked up all the good stuff at the store: ground beef, avocado, Swiss Cheese (for me), and potato buns. We lit matches in the wind and flipped burgers in the rain. The reward was great. That woman can cook!

Adaptability. In what ways have you adjusted to your surroundings? Maybe you too have moved across the country. There’s a deep mourning involved in the loss of friends and all that’s familiar. Or perhaps you’ve experienced a deeper mourning; divorce and the death of a family member come to mind.

Because change is constant, we’d all be better to take one day at a time (preaching to myself as well here). Tomorrow isn’t promised and suffering is part of life. Think about what you were doing five years ago. Did you ever think you’d be in this situation? Maybe unemployed, maybe married, maybe driving a minivan instead of a Jeep (insert sigh here)? But somehow most of us can roll with the changes. Sure, the changes can be uncomfortable (like fewer trips to Nordstrom’s) or possibly shocking (like a 70% disappearance of your retirement).

I’ve learned much through my jolt of 2009 and I’m sure many of you have wild stories as well. It has become easier to enjoy the simple things and to relish each day. I’ve also been humbled and forced to acknowledge my reliance upon God. As much as we try to prep for change, there’s only so much we can do. Only God remains unchanged. Only God never gets distracted from pursuing us, while we often forget to pursue him. We worry too much and become selfish. We hold on to the insignificant while the important things are often neglected.

So whether the Mariners win the World Series in 2010 or another shocking event occurs more personal to you, remember to flip those burgers in the rain and to place your hope in Him who is without change.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fear the Sweaty Hug!

What will my kids remember when they grow up? Is it the life lessons we teach them? What will the faith we pass on translate to? Will they remember the road trips? The multiple times we repeated "put your shoes on"? Will counseling be needed?

One tradition they’ll remember for sure: sweaty hugs. When mom or dad prepares to go on a run there are usually two questions from the kids. 1) Why? (which is often a question many people ask) 2) Are you going to give me a sweaty hug? A confident “Yes” is the promise.

I can’t remember exactly when my eldest stopped loving me unconditionally. As a toddler, she would hug me no matter what. At some point she put two and two together, deciding that sweat is gross and that exercising makes one sweaty. When daddy comes home from a run, he can get as much attention as he wants by asking, “Who wants a sweaty hug?” At that point, she would run and hide, giggling and screaming.

Now with 3 kids, two of them run and hide with true fear. Only one family loves me unconditionally: Junior! What about my wife you ask? The one I’ve been faithfully married to for 14 years? The one who was an ER nurse contacting blood, guts, and any number of grotesque fluids? Apparently sweat is the worst of all! She does NOT love me unconditionally. In fact she’ll scream and run with the girls after a run of mine. But she inflicts bodily harm. She can dislocate fingers and quickly find the knife drawer.

So avoiding pain, I go on the hunt for the girls. When I find them – it’s parenthood at its finest – one of a few opportunities to get even. For all those sleepless nights and whining, here’s your payback. With a diabolical laugh, I give a quick hug. Or if the mood strikes, I give a hug and methodically wipe my arms and hair all over their arms and faces which are paralyzed with disbelief. At that point, it’s just me and my son. He sits in my lap and gives me a hug. He’s blissfully unaware of the transferring perspiration and stink. He is the only human in the world who truly loves me…that is until he catches on.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It Takes A Village

It takes a raise our children! How does your weekly schedule flow? I had a conversation this week with a friend whose kids are grown, thereby allowing mom and dad to travel at a moment's notice.

Right now that's not my reality. "Spontaneous" requires pre-potty breaks, sippy cups, and a "pack-n-play". As I pine for my seven year old to get her driver's license, I simultaneously hope she never grows up. My kids are not inconvenient, but performing life's basics sure can get hectic. Take this week, for example.

Jana has required training classes which are offered during the day. We are currently only prepared to balance our schedules when she works the evening shift. So weeks like this throw us the proverbial curve ball. We try to find as much babysitting we can, then fill in the gaps. An 8 hour work day is broken into three segments over a 16 hour span. The average day looks like this:

Daddy goes to Bible study at 6 for an hour. Mommy leaves at 7:15am. Dad wakes up girls, cooks pancakes (okay only once this week), waits on the table, races to get Junior, changes Junior's diaper (worthy of a medal of honor in its own right), feeds Junior, brushes girls' hair (maybe even adding a barrett - but no pony tails), loads girls in car, cleans Junior, dresses Junior, throws Junior in the car, drops child 1 at school, drops child 2 at school, takes Junior for a run, showers, writes blog, feeds Junior, picks up child 2 at school, takes two youngest to babysitter's house, goes to work, picks up youngest 2, picks up eldest, awaits babysitter #2's arrival, returns for work. Meanwhile, Momma returns home, she cleans, takes youngest to doctor for unplanned weekly visit (yes another trip this week!), cooks dinner, bathes kids, does laundry, waves to hubby at 8pm when he finally returns home.

You can see: no room for spontaneity and it takes a village to raise our kids. Babysitter #1's name is Alison - she is great. She even does our dishes! Because she doesn't mind adding more kids, her name is being advertised here. Babysitter #2's name - Not So Fast. No she's not a slow runner, but she only has room on her schedule for one family. And despite our Christian focus - WE AIN'T TELLING YOU WHO IT IS.

Anyway, we've been blessed with these two great babysitters, but so many others have helped us: moms, dad, Diane, Michele, Laura, and others. How blessed we are! How unspontaneous we've become! That trip to Hawaii was a lifetime ago, but I'm listening to friends and mentors who've been here. "Enjoy it," they say. And I am. We are. Plus we're picking up valuable skill development. How else could you learn to type with one hand, drink a latte, and feed your son in your lap?