Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What did I just step in?

The number of times in the last week I’ve contacted nauseating bodily fluids has arrived at a non-comical level. You know, it’s cute a few times. Then after a while you laugh because it’s happened so often. Then it exceeds the humorous and borders on the ridiculous. Based on last week’s post, you know the weekend that was. Well it continued.

After we thought all was good, we loaded up in the car to get our Christmas tree. Ten minutes later, our firstborn was puking in the car’s trash can. (Yes we have a trash can in our car.) Great. Anyone else?

The next morning the mama wasn’t feeling well and had a bad day. Fortunately, she didn’t take any car trips which seem to cause the upchucking. Well I guess just the boys survived.

Errrr. Hold that. 72 hours later dad takes the three kids to the movies while mom’s at work. We get all the way to the credits when Jr. cries out in pain, “MY TUMMY REALLY, REALLY HURTS!” Really? GO! GO! GO! Both girls run for the exit. I pick up the little man and sprint for the parking lot. The poor guy is in serious pain. Fortunately no vomit. Unfortunately his virus manifested in another way. And for 48 hours, culminating in the foulest nighttime wake-up smell ever I’ve had many more opportunities to clean floors, toilets, carpet, you name it.
Of course last night’s pinnacle incident occurred 45 minutes after I had stupidly declared “Ahhh. The peace.” I should’ve known better. That Sunday night after the movie incident, and a day of cleaning cat and dog messes of various sorts the house was finally peaceful. I headed to the tv to watch the last quarter of Sunday Night Football. Two steps from the couch of solitude with diet coke & popcorn in hand…I stepped in it.
I didn’t even know which animal had done it. There’s evidence to convict either if not both. For 20 minutes I fumed and cursed the existence of animals and the presence of sin in the world. This morning I read from Isaiah 11 about the time when the “wolf will live with the lamb” and “the infant playing near the hole of the cobra.” Certainly at some point the insanity ends. I really hope this includes cleaning up the messes of those animals and any pets I may have.
But I keep telling myself that other people are having worse days and I know it’s true. It could be worse. I realize that for the unforeseen future I will be cleaning, wiping, scooping, and rinsing. But that this is part of the privilege of parenting. Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Thank you, God, for this day. Its highs and lows. The sun that rose and actually appeared in Seattle. For that full moon last night and your faithful presence as I clean, wipe, rinse, etc.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

41 - The Wildest Birthday of them All

Do you remember your 41st birthday? No, not 40 or 30 or 21. 41. I remember mine. It was last week. Betcha I remember it for decades to come too! You’re probably thinking. Hmmm, is 41 a magical Fraser birthday?  Do they do something weird in the Northwest for 41?  Nope.

My sweet wife booked a condo for the family near the ocean last weekend. A great way for the family to celebrate. Day one went great. We all drove up to Bellingham (very close to Canada) after another great Portage Bay Breakfast in Seattle (another entry someday). We explored Bellingham and Birch Bay (a tiny town even closer to the Canadian border), ate some more, and swam in the heated pool.

At 4pm on day two, Jana wakes up from a nap to the sound of a sheriff on a bullhorn. I was watching football so I hadn’t heard a thing. The sheriffs were calling for a man to come out of his condo – a mere 15 yards from ours. After an hour we decided to make the trek back to Bellingham for dinner. The three patrol cars were still there as were the sheriffs. We brought a couple extra items just in case, but were hopeful that whatever delinquent was being coaxed from his apartment would behave and walk downstairs.

As we left the condo, the kids kept asking what was happening. “The police came to arrest the man for not eating his vegetables” we told them. One rolled her eyes, one’s eyes lit up, and one’s eyes were glossed over (he didn’t understand my humor). But we were concerned enough to know that we may not be spending the night in our nice little getaway.

After departing the Olive Garden, child number two began coughing that distinctive cough. There really is no way to descibe it.  You just know it.  The one where you don’t have a cough but something else is seriously wrong. Then she made those moans in the car and began crying. Only one thing was the result – vomit! She’s never puked before, so it was a new experience for all. (Her older sister and all of our pets barf all the time, however.)

A 25 minute drive back to the…oh yeah, standoff. Oh, no. What if it’s still going on? Well. It was. Now the entire road was blocked off. What about my phone? Jana’s medicine? Fresh clothes for the puker? Oh well. Better than getting shot!

We said a quick prayer for the safety of the sheriffs and drove 25 minutes back to Bellingham to find a hotel. After checking in Mama headed for the room with three confused kids. Daddy put the towels and clothing with vomit onto the hood of the car to minimize the fermentation in the Toyota. I borrowed some Febreeze and wiped the seat down. Because it was 30 degrees outside, I knew everything would freeze – but who cares? At least it ain’t in the car!

Well, all was resolved in the morning. It's amazing what a solid four hours of sleep can do! Only one other puking wake-up and only a few hours of lost sleep. Apparently there had been a serious threat along with a gun. More sheriffs and patrol cars including an armored car. An arrest was made and no one was hurt. We showered, laundered, and cleaned. Then we drove two hours south in a smelly car (the Febreeze didn’t cover all sins) and arrived at home where we spent the next three hours REALLY washing the seat, showering, laundering, and cleaning.
Here’s to a very boring 42!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jesus Didn't Eat Peanut Butter!

Did you know that? I found out yesterday. As my kids were helping clean out one of the Sunday school rooms, Elias’ brain began to process. He recognized his own classroom where he learns, pouts, screams, plays, throws down, etc. His memory was triggered and zestily approached me. “Dad. You know Jesus? He no peanut butter!” Translation: Jesus didn’t eat peanut butter.

Where did that come from? What kind of theology is that? Do I believe that?

Ummmm. Yes. Er. No. Wait. Yes.

I don’t believe Jesus ate peanut butter because I don’t think there were peanuts in that culture. There were nuts, but peanuts? Not sure. Didn’t take that class in seminary. But I’m pretty sure that was not the lesson communicated in our preschool Sunday school last week.

But now I’m concerned. Does my three year old believe Jesus was too good to eat peanut butter? That he condemned anyone who did?

He wouldn’t have done that. Not gonna guarantee it, but from what I read about Jesus in Scripture, he was a man of the people. He spent most of his time with the poor, the lonely, the outcasts, the underdog. Those people hypothetically would have eaten peanut butter. Had it been available. Because it’s pretty cheap…and easy to make…and all that.

Those Pharisees probably would have only eaten kosher cold cuts and fancy foods for lunch. Because they had more money and laws and that kind of stuff. Did the Pharisees consider peanuts unclean?

Hey this is becoming a pretty interesting argument with myself. I need to go back and read Leviticus again.

Anyway, lots of people come up with crazy ideas about Jesus. They say things he didn’t and inaccurately label him. Sometimes they read the Bible, but usually they just develop their theology based on Hollywood movies or the selective, condemning reports of local news stations looking for viewership.

So today’s post is just a friendly public service announcement encouraging you to read the Bible. It’s God’s word in your own hands with incredible news for you. If you need help or translation, don’t ask a three year old. Ask me or another friend who has a bit more experience. We’d love to help you uncover the God of the Universe who made himself incarnate – choosing to live in a fallen world, choosing to suffer, and choosing to hypothetically eat peanut butter with the poor. Because he loves you!!

And for the record I think Elias was reiterating our no peanut allergy policy at church. Just a guess though. Those three year olds are tough to figure out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Greater Fear

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Is there anything we fear worse than someone hurting our children? Last week the sports world collided with the real world when it was revealed that one of the assistant coaches for the football team at a prominent university had been inappropriately touching children.

I have a friend who a few years back attended a football game at Penn State University. He was fascinated how the community centered around football. The entire town, greatly isolated geographically, shuts down for games. The coach is (was) an icon. Joe Paterno is eighty four and until last week had been coaching for over sixty years at his institution – an institution centered around football. The proverbial tail wagging the dog.

As you may have noticed, sometimes people depart reality and cling to things of less import. We watch movies or listen to sports radio while much of the world struggles to find its next meal. At some point those things can become more significant. It dominates our time and consumes our thoughts. College presidents, corporate CEOs, musicians, athletes, and many others become consumed with pride, warping their worldviews and the rest of us go along for the ride.

Many details are still to come, but I can make a general speculation. At some point, the diversion (football, popularity, pride, money) became more important than humanity. Football players, fans, parents, and kids all became pawns to the alleged goal: winning. Who knows what all was ignored? The coach once hailed as one who “won with honor,” forgot his conviction and now has no honor.

A wise man once told me that we always need to operate from a place of humility. At no time should we believe our own press. We need to find people that will surround us and will lovingly rip off the bandages and expose anything we may be hiding. It goes against our inclinations, but it’s essential. Everything is at stake: our faith, our honor, our kids.

Pray for humility and bandage removers in your life. Pray for the millions of kids and adults suffering from current and past abuse.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spoiled Rotten

So as I continue to wrestle with money and the implications of living in a community of wealth, I again found myself the beneficiary of tremendous generosity.

I spent last week in California at a wonderful orientation class to my denomination’s vibrant heart for the world. The Evangelical Covenant Church is planting churches in communities that don’t resemble mine. I witnessed incredible people serving the poor, the marginalized, and communities of refugees and immigrants. 25% of the Covenant’s churches are now labeled “ethnic.” Whether first generation or fifth generation Americans (the U.S. ones), race still divides our nation and our churches. Many of my colleagues are opening their arms to heal these fissures.

After four powerful days of developing friendships and awakening myself to the possibilities of the Church, I rented a car and enjoyed a quick 48 hour vacation. I soon visited my cousin Cecily and her two beautiful kids who live near San Francisco. I headed south to meet up with the ever-faithful Jeff who pulled a few strings and landed us a tee time at one of the Pebble Beach golf courses. Yes. The Pebble Beach. Perhaps the mecca of golf so to speak. I guess I should more accurately say the community that has developed golf courses on God’s wonderfully created California coast.

We played for free. That’s right, I said free. It would have otherwise cost $375 – per person! So being cheap and a mediocre golfer, you know I would have never spent that kind of money on a round of golf.

The course was incredible. The views beyond belief. The conditions immaculate. (Yes, I would be willing to eat off of the fairway.) The customer service beyond imagination.

The ocean was bluer. The fairways greener. The greens firmer. The sand traps steeper – and challenging. Painfully, frustratingly awful – I mean challenging. The rough was rougher.

Though I was in the sand more than a kindergartener in a sandbox at recess, I was in awe. I took more photos than a proud parent of a newborn. I was spoiled rotten: completely undeserving of the extravagance and opportunity to play one of the world’s elite golf courses – especially with my abilities. If my final score were the temperature of any city in the country…that city would be Phoenix…in July.

Though this may not have been a God-ordained round of golf, there are definitely a few lessons to exegete. I think heaven may be a bit like an outing on 17 Mile Drive: a group of people undeserving, yet spoiled rotten. People ecstatic and in awe. Perfect conditions. People being allowed to enter with no possible way to pay that price themselves.

My prayer is that the whole world may have the experience of being spoiled rotten. That they would be made aware that utter poverty and racial division may be their fate, but that knowing God yields acceptance, hope, undeserving grace, and invitation to be in awe of the God who made the oceans.

Thanks Jeff. Thanks God.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Anniversary 16.2

It wasn’t a great anniversary. Well, compared to our typical fun anniversaries. Usually you would find us at a water park, beach, or lively restaurant. But this year’s was different. Being extremely ill on your anniversary ain’t no fun at all.
There’s much to be said for holding your spouse’s hand when she’s sicker than sick on your anniversary. It contrasts the euphoria of the wedding day, yet there is a deeper love sixteen years later that is more meaningful without the need for a fancy honeymoon.

That said, we got a raw deal for #16. So as we realized we’d have a chance to go away for 24 hours a few months after #16, we were excited to have a do-over. Call it 16.2. With only 24 hours, we decided a long distance getaway wasn’t in the cards, but just a day of peace, quiet, and carefree living would be great. We picked a hotel in downtown Seattle online – it’s called Vintage Park. It looked fancy, but wouldn’t completely break the bank.

So at noon last Thursday we said goodbye to the kids and grandparents…and made a run for it. The options were endless: where to eat, what to do, where to go? We had a great lunch at an “East Coast” deli then drove to the hotel. The valet opened the doors of our kidmobile littered with goldfish crackers, sippy cups, and used baby wipes. Oh no! I completely forgot about the tip! I scrounged through my wallet and all I had…a buck. Classy! He picked up our duffel bag from the trunk (yes I said duffel bag) and carried it to the lobby. Did I mention I had forgotten to zip up the duffel bag? Socks and sweatshirts were plainly visible.

We walked into the lobby. They told us about wine tasting at 5pm and dinner at 9 in the hotel’s upscale Italian restaurant. Then the gal smiled and said they had upgraded us to a nicer room. We were gracious as we turned for the elevator. The bellman asked us which floor and we said the eleventh. He looked like he swallowed a tack because he had seen the car we drove. Room 1103 – three rooms: bedroom, bathroom, and living room. No wait. It was more like a parlor. A tv near the bathtub, one in the bedroom, and one in the living… I mean parlor. Couches with soft pillows, chairs without armrests, and real blinds on the windows. I know – fancy stuff!

We walked downtown wandering into stores with breakable items and coffee houses with candles. We strolled for hours, not having to stop to pee every 15 minutes. When we returned to the hotel, there was a bottle of wine and chocolate on the coffee table. And the wine didn’t have a screw top!

The rest of the stay continued on like this. Our waitress bought our dessert for us. Everyone on staff was genuinely considerate or faked it really well. We reluctantly departed the hotel still a bit suspicious. Were we set up? Did someone pay extra for us? Did they feel really sorry for us? At the end we didn’t care. We took it as a gift – a small treat for the postponed anniversary part one. Thank you God for small gifts like this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Parking Lot Speaks Volumes

The parking lot speaks volumes. It’s a beautiful fall morning here in the PNW. The leaves of the trees are bright orange, red, and yellow. It’s incredible. I’m staring through a giant Starbucks window which shares the dimensions of a computer screen. Pretending it was a giant touch screen, I’d love to start erasing the cars and Chevron sign I see in the near distance. All I’d have left would be the rugged landscape of a 45 degree Washington fall day: hills, trees, smoky clouds, and a blanket of gray. But the gray is hardly noticeable because the green branches of the evergreens and the iridescent leaves shame that dull sky.

And if it shames the sky, what does it do to the objects of humankind’s desire? You know, cars. Pulling out that giant touch screen again, if you were to take away the incredible foliage and mountains in the background, you’d have a pretty impressive spectrum of colors from these vehicles as well. There are greens, reds, yellows, blacks, silvers, whites, maroons, champagnes, and clays. Probably not much different from any other parking lot in Anytown, USA.

Of course this ain’t Anytown, USA. Looking carefully I can only see one car that looks out of place – some kind of station wagon missing its left rear hubcap. In anytown USA, 90% of all the cars aren’t so high end. My own Camry looks like a beater compared to the rest. Doing the math, there have been hundreds of thousands spent on vehicles in just this tiny parking lot.

And we all know that the owners of these vehicles have two and three car garages with who knows what else parked in those other spaces. I know we do! My minivan cost more than my adoption (Though in the long run with the amount of food the little linebacker is eating there won’t be a comparison.). Yet here I stare in jealousy of the guy in the lifted Jeep and that bratty little 16 year old in a Lexus SUV. It is a hard day for me. Excuse me while I wipe away a tear…

OK I’m back. The parking lot speaks volumes. My beloved “Silver Bullet” sits there which transports my three precious ones at speeds approaching a rolling bowling ball. There’s not a piece of litter anywhere (Did you know how clean the Eastside is?), yet our world is in peril. The hungry, the exploited, the angry. If I just sit in this chair all day long, life will remain easy and the world will still be perfect – just the aroma of coffee, the hissing of milk steaming, beautiful leaves, shining electric cars. Not a person with nary a problem. It’s kind of a nice bubble to be in. Get me some headphones to drown out the couple arguing in the corner and I’m good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Nope, not Scrooge. Let me explain.

Back in the saddle again. I haven’t come out of retirement. I just took a long break. It has been tough finding much free time the past four months, especially considering the way life has somewhat turned upside down. But you probably already know that story, but I’m not going there today.

Last Saturday was a great day, though it was largely void of children. Some of you may be wondering, “How could a day without your children be great?” Others (the ones with kids) will say, “I hear ya!” It’s not a loving your children thing, it’s a silence thing. I drove three hours south to my old stomping-ground: Portland. What a beautiful day it was. High 60s. Mostly clear. And a day to see old friends.

For the first time since graduating four plus years ago, I returned to the school that I have held most dear – George Fox Evangelical Seminary. A seminary reunion was the opportunity for my visit. Upon returning to the PNW I had foolishly assumed that I’d be able to jaunt south every month or two to see old friends or take a new class. Because reality stepped in, my dreams disappeared.

In the Old Testament Samuel constructs a stone monument, called an Ebenezer, to thank God for delivering the Israelites from the Philistines. Only because of his intervention was Israel spared in a battle, and actually victorious.

George Fox is my Ebenezer. Talking to professors and walking the halls last weekend was a jolting reminder of God’s faithfulness in my life. It was there that God showed me his work in the lives of people for hundreds of generations. Many memories swarmed my mind and for a brief moment it felt as if time has stood still – I’m still in seminary right? I get to come back tomorrow for another class, to be with friends, to wrestle with Scripture and theology?

As I begun the bittersweet drive home I took a photo of the majestic Fremont Bridge which will forever symbolize God’s work in my life. It’s the city of my Ebenezer. What’s yours?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Grass on the Other Side

What's the grass like on the other side?  I ask because our church's grass is looking a little brown right now.  We're in transition.  For those unfamiliar with transition it often means when one pastor leaves and another one is on his/her way.  It could be a good thing or a bad thing.  There is significant internal disagreement over which applies for us.

The Church in the U.S. parallels the culture in that we're under constant change.  When the customer service is poor we get ticked off, others have hurt feelings, and a few even coincidentally move to Ohio at the very onset of transition.  Funny how so many people are moving to Ohio!  It's often the equivalent to dating's "let's be friends" or "I need more space."  "It's not you it's me" is heard as is "it's you, it's not me."

The early church (right after Jeus' ascension) was far from perfect.  Those who weren't martyred still had issues and their Greco-Roman culture often blinded them from making perfect decisions:  some were racists, others sexists, many classists.  They didn't have cars however and choose to drive down to Nazareth Evangelical Church because of better preaching, music, or potlucks.

Before trying to look "holier than thou," I have left churches too and often feel like throwing in the towel because others are doing so.  How have I gotten to this point?  How have we gotten to this point?  Our church is filled with imperfect people that make mistakes.  In contrast, of course, to the other churches filled with people that make mistakes and fall short of perfection.  People get mad at us because we're sinners.  So they leave.  Heck, we pastors sometimes leave too.

If you follow professional sports you know that the average coach lasts only a few years.  The team hears his speeches over and over and his efficacy decreases through time.  Sometimes players leave and sometimes coaches leave.  Many times it leads to success, but typically the same thing happens.  The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship last night with a coach most saw as mediocre in his last position.  Did he change?  Did the team change?  Because Christians are human, we do the same exact thing:  we get sick of our pastors and our pastors get sick of our congregations.  I've been on both sides so I've made twice as many mistakes as you.
I'm not against people (pastors & parishioners) switching churches (I'm always looking for a church that'll give me a country club membership), but I really wonder what God thinks about it.  When we leave churches and find new ones, we'll find other people just as flawed as we are.  They'll make us mad and we'll want to leave again. 

One of the most curious oddities of God is that He still gives us leadership roles within His Church.  Doesn't he know we constantly screw things up?  We certainly don't act like a family.  The old saying about choosing your friends but not your family applies.  Your "stuck" with family sometimes.  But we "choose" our churches and don't suffer the full gamut of consequences when we leave them.  How does this organization called the Body of Christ ever accomplish anything with this transition?  It's simple.  The grace of God.  While tearing my hair out today I got to witness the healing and miraculous powers of God Almighty in the lives of two families.  I got out of the way, canceled my pity party, and praised God.  HE is in charge of the Church and HE is the reason we accomplish anything at all.  Join me in worshiping the God who loves us despite our search to hop the fence for the greener grass.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Witnessing Distress

This past week I witnessed two families in distress. The first family spent the first few days of what will likely be a lengthy hospital stay for their youngest child. Doctors and nurses are trying to figure out why she’s so sick. My daughter is about the same age and they are friends. Life was humming along for this family and it turned on a dime.

The second family is being torn apart through divorce. I never would have suspected it, but very little surprises me anymore. I learned this lesson a few years back. You can probably fill in the blank with me. “I never would have suspected this would happen to the _______ family.”
In seminary I read a book by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised. He’s a professor at Whitworth University whose life was upended by a car accident that claimed the lives of his wife, daughter, and mother. A drunk driver swerved into his lane and forever altered his reality. The key line in the book? Instead of crying “why me” we ought to be saying “why not me.”
We are spoiled living in this country. Suffering takes on a different face. My sister spent three years in Africa in the Peace Corps witnessing untimely death as a norm. And this is Sittser’s point. In a sinful, broken world this stuff is gonna happen. It’s nearly a foregone conclusion. It is more often concealed in our little world.

If you’re a Christian and you’re under the delusion that God’s goal is to get us through life without more than a few knee scrapes, you’ve got some reading to do. Or flip the TV channel to a different preacher whose Gospel isn’t “the power of positive thinking.” I’ve been reading Ezekiel the last few weeks. That poor dude was obedient to God and though he was surrounded by a delinquent people, he suffered. God even took his wife to prove a point to Israel.

Easy for me to say these families will be okay because God is with them. But it’s true. There’s really nothing I can do except remind them of God’s faithfulness and grace. My prayer for them? Healing. Reconciliation. Peace. I pray God will sustain them with clear minds as they suffer and that whatever level of distress they experience will make them stronger and increase their faith.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Your First Love

It’s ironic that as a Children & Families Pastor I spend very little time with kids – other than my own of course. In some ways it’s like the principal whose time is dedicated to influencing others who work with kids. Generally it’s only on Sunday mornings that I hang out with children. But even then I’m my time is divided, being equally concerned with the teachers and parents.
I think of when I first began teaching, excited to influence young minds and to be part of their world. In only a few years I saw the trend of spending less time developing relationships and more time working on test scores. Obviously my objective was not to develop friendships, but to develop young minds and hearts. But there was a hint of treating kids like “widgets.” They became clients needing to improve test scores.
Yesterday was a rare day when I got to hang out with kids. Their reward for memorizing eight Bible verses this year? Ben & Jerry’s: pick what you want. They ate personally concocted desserts that only other kids would relish. One girl ordered mint ice cream in a chocolate-dipped cone with rainbow sprinkles. I just got to sit and listen to their giddiness. Once in a while I stoked the conversation a few times to peek into their lives (Beware parents – when you feed kids ice cream they’ll sing like canaries, offering plenty of unsolicited information.).

I’ve recently had a new opportunity to return to my first love – spending time with kids. A few months back I began teaching a weekly Bible lesson to a group of 15 students. These kids are mostly second generation Chinese students that uses our facility for an after school program. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to teach a weekly Bible lesson to this secular group. (More about this opportunity in the weeks to come.) So each Wednesday afternoon for 30 minutes I get to return to the simple: me, a whiteboard, a stale room with a few posters, and about a dozen wiggly little bodies that talk 100mph and have unique things to say.

How often in your life do you feel a thousand miles from where you thought you were headed? Maybe you became a nurse to heal the sick and now you’re defending your hospital in court. How about the architect who first loved playing with Legos and is now serving breakfast at the local diner? Or what about the musician who loves singing praises to God but spends most of her time rewriting music that fits the record label’s stale requirements?

Life can get dull and we are often in need of inspiration. Our passions, plans, and dreams get squashed by bottom lines, bills, and greed (sometimes our own). I’m fortunate that despite spending less time with kids and too much time on paperwork, much of my time defaults to conversations with adults. Despite filing papers and answering email I still feel that I spend much more time than the average Joe/Jane doing exactly what I want.

Are you stuck? Maybe you’re not nearly as bad-off as your neighbor, or your kids aren’t starving either. Our help is the Holy Spirit’s renewing work. His mercies are made new according to Lamentations 3. May you find a little life in your day or week. A reminder that you are wonderfully and uniquely made. Here’s to more kid interactions or whatever it is that you crave in your (paid or unpaid) work week.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Economy Strkes Again

Is there no end to the devastation of our nation’s economic woes? Granted most citizens aren’t worried about finding their next meal, but many are still hurting. At PLCC this has now taken the form of downsizing. The church has rescinded the call to my friend Reid. If you’re not familiar with church lingo, that means he has been asked to find another job.
There is frequent staff turnover in ministry. Sometimes it is the result of misbehavior. Other times, there is a fundamental disagreement in the theology of the two parties. And there are times when pastors move to a new church home for a change of scenery or in response to God’s call (command). But in this case, it’s basically the economy.
Reid didn’t want to leave. He did nothing wrong. His talents are numerous. His heart, gold. His friendship, irreplaceable. I have learned much from him in 18 months. Plus, I have yet to even begin bragging about his wife and kids. I had no input on this decision and I don’t envy the group that is making decisions for a church in this economy. Quite frankly I’m fortunate it wasn’t me.

Of all those on staff who could have lost their jobs, he is the most “marketable” for a new one. It’s a crude way to label a pastor as marketable, but the dude is multi-talented and could do just about anything for a church. He preaches very well. He relates to kids and adults equally. He’s down to earth. He’s direct. He’s passionate. He’s smart. He’s technologically savvy. He’s creative.

I am sickened for the upheaval he and his family will go through and pray for their peace and blessing. In our current economic state many are affected. Fortunately in God’s economy we have no reason to fear because when bad stuff happens, He’ll take care of us. The church at Philippi is promised by Paul that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Not only that, but who knows the implications this decision will have. Proverbs tells us to “trust in the Lord with ALL our heart and to not lean on our own understanding.” The group that made the decision prayed for discernment for months and I believe they have been leaning not on their own understanding. This heartbreaking life change may cause grief, but it may also yield benefits unforeseen.

As we feel the effects of our hopeless economy remember there is always hope within God’s economy.

Monday, May 9, 2011

37 Seconds

I spent the better half of two hours putting up the trampoline yesterday. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I wouldn’t say blood, sweat, and tears. But it was a noble effort nonetheless.  But as of five minutes ago, it's not so great.

When the trampoline was first gifted to us it was nearly a gift of God. Practically a babysitter in itself, the kids were entertained for hours. Translation - housework completed without interference.  After a six month hiatus, it was time to break it out. When I finished at dusk all three made a bee line for it. They jumped right on and…well jumped. Like riding a bike. Which they can’t all do yet.

Anyway I was excited today for them to use it while I wrote my blog – making the most of that trampoline babysitter. But because the youngest has been flexing his defiance muscles in biblical proportions, I decided to time how long it would take for the first argument to take place. I fired up the laptop and as the title reveals: 37 seconds. A scream of bloody murder would have been less startling. And scream number two came at one minute flat. Experiment over. Even with warnings in place, this offense was oh “so sad” as we say in Love & Logic. But more sad for me than anyone else.

So any thoughts of a long summer of yardwork or lounging with a refreshing Diet Coke just came to an ugly halt. My dreams were dashed in 37 seconds. Next year he turns four which I’m told is much easier. But for now it looks like there will be a lot of independent jumping. Well, at least the springs will last longer.

How many of our best laid plans are foiled? “For I know the plans I have for you…” God tells us. But they don’t necessarily mean easy.  It's a tough lesson to swallow.

Speaking of plans...my newest thought for the house - replace the east facing wall with one of those clear glass garage doors that you can raise when it's warm.  Pardon me while I go fetch my sledge hammer.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

I don’t have a problem. I swear. Really. (First stage – denial.) Why is Seattle known for great coffee? The weather of course. For each day that’s 45 degrees and drizzly I know I can’t go golfing or swimming, but I know at least I can have a good cup of coffee, or a latte, or a caramel macchiato, or a raspberry mocha.

Well, 9 times out of 10 it’s a 12oz. drip with room or a 16 oz. one-Splenda latte. I have an entire pocket in my wallet dedicated to these frequent flyer cards. As of this publishing date I hold in my wallet a gold Starbucks card, a Caffee Ladro credit card, and an Issaquah Coffee 10 drink card. I can go to two places today and get free coffee because I’ve been so frequently. Where to go? The decision is killing me.

At Starbucks, you get one free drink after 15 purchases. I was a bit embarrassed when I received two cards in the mail in April. And I don’t just go to Starbucks. My Issaquah Coffee card is ready to be redeemed right now for a smooth, velvety cup of liquid goodness (that’s Jana’s line).

If you go to my kitchen, you’ll see an entire coffee cabinet: tumblers, mugs, whole beans, Senseo pods, filters, and even a pack of ground decaf. Below this cabinet of course are the dueling coffee makers: one makes drip, the other makes espresso. We can’t agree on the taste – so we have one for each of us. Our marriage is real teamwork. We share children, bank accounts, and all decisions are made together…but we don’t tolerate each other’s coffee.

When my beloved wakes up, ambles with tiny steps, hair sticking up in 32 directions she blows me a kiss and walks straight for her machine – the one that makes the nasty, bitter, espresso. “I’ve been dreaming about it all night,” she tells me. It’s the true love of her life. The world isn’t right until our coffee makers are set in motion. Her machine elicits a low hum then a hushed release of steam, like an old train. My machine isn’t permitted to operate until all living creatures are awake. Because it grinds the beans first, a sound equivalent to a siren alerting the masses of an impending hurricane whines throughout our home. It is followed by the melodious “drip…drip…drip.” Ahhh the aroma – morning is here.

Fridays and Saturday mornings are the best. They’re accompanied by the newspaper, a blanket, and three little people in their jammies. For about 12 minutes we have silence, at least two warm snugglers per parent (we have animals too), and that taste of sweet nectar.

But I don’t have a problem…Excuse me a moment…“I said, ‘REFILL PLEASE!’ Don’t give me this ‘I’m only five’ business. You know daddy needs his coffee now…And none of that soy stuff your mom uses. Gimme the half and half…Good girl. Thank you, honey.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stuck Between a Window and a Window

It was a harrowing moment. For the second time in a month, I was going to make my wife late for work. There was a common thread – besides trying to do too much in a small space in time: Home Depot.

Like a vortex, I get sucked in there every time I go. There’s just too much cool stuff. Plus, my mind just wanders as I wander from aisle to aisle. Look at all the things I could be doing to fix my house. The following are actual thoughts that have run through my head while traversing said theme park:
• I totally need new hardware for my kitchen appliances.

• Who doesn’t need a riding lawn mover?

• Retiling a shower would be a cinch.

• My children need a 300 square foot treehouse.

I could go on, but I won’t. Yesterday I was focused: 3 items, no messing around. I found the paint, the brackets, and the lumber. Be home by 2:10pm. No worries, I was checking out at a quarter ‘til – plenty of time to even hit the Starbucks drive thru. But then…I forgot about loading the lumber. As I was walking to my car, I remembered I brought the wrong vehicle.

I attempted to load the eight foot 2x10s into my Camry – eight of them I bought. After number five I hit the panic button. It was taking way too long and the boards had practically glued themselves to my windshield and rear window. Between moments of cursing the selling of my truck, I knew I was in deep. The guy watching me in his car must’ve thought I was an idiot. He’d be right!

With every passing moment I knew I was getting dangerously close to coming home late. Finally I made the call. Gulp. Jana had to throw all three kids in the car and drive to Home Depot where she would switch cars and head to work.

I spent the next 10 minutes methodically coaxing each 2x10 to detach from my import and to think of the best way to eat humble pie. I chose to say nothing, feeling “sorry” was lame. After the switch was made she called and told me she loved me. Wow – undeserved for sure. But that’s who she is. 15 plus years of putting up with me and she still loves me – beyond tolerance. Maybe she knew her birthday is Saturday and by chewing me out I’d return that four carat diamond. Nope. She’s better than that. That’s not her style. She’s definitely a keeper

Monday, April 4, 2011

Collective Whining

I can taste it! Spring is here. The signs you ask? Why it’s the greatest week in sports: last Friday – opening day in baseball, tonight – the NCAA basketball final, and Thursday – the Masters golf tournament starts.

But I’ll spare you another sports entry. The other signs of spring? There are a few birds chirruping. Our days are getting longer (read: I can go for a run without a headlamp). I’m only drinking 6 cups a coffee per day as opposed to winter’s 8. The white glow of my skin is more visible than it was a few weeks ago. And of course, the weather is turning. We’re now mostly in the low 50s at the peak of day.

As I hear weather reports from our neighbors to the south, I grumble. Sure it’s warmer than t was in January – but a mere 10-12 degrees warmer. This is spring? Boohoo. Yet it’s not just this soft California boy complaining. The true sign of spring in the Northwest? Collective whining.

My good buddy Brenden loves it. He loves the wet days, the clouds acting as blankets to cozy us up. But everybody else I talk to – “waaa, waaa, waaa.”

“Why won’t it stop raining they wonder.”

“You’re in Seattle you dummy,” I think. “What are you expecting?”

My feet are cold. Softball practice in the rain is a new experience. When the sun comes out once a week, I sprint for the front window – still too cold to go outside for sunning. But when my colleagues who’ve lived here their whole lives complain, I feel a little better. Somehow our group complaint enables us to survive.

But I know I’m spoiled and life is good. Give me time and I’ll complain about almost anything. My vacation was too short. My latte had too much foam. My house isn’t big enough. Then I read Scripture or watch the news or talk with my eight-year-old. When I told her about the trips I used to take to Mexico to build houses for the needy, she wondered why they were only 10 x 20 feet long. “We’ve got more money. We can share more with them can’t we? People live in cardboard boxes?” ’Nuff said! I’ll gladly take my 45 degree spring day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Batter Up

For a kid who grew up playing outside virtually every day, about the only thing I knew outside of piano lessons were sports. I played in the front yard, back yard, anywhere I could: kickball, soccer, baseball, basketball, and football. Such great memories and so much of my childhood.

The most challenging? Baseball – hands down. Okay, so I never played organized football and I never attempted surfing ‘til later. But baseball was great. I vividly remember playing catch in the front yard with my dad (and sometimes mom) for hours. I miss the sound of the ball smacking the leather. I miss the smell of the grass, the dirt, and the leather glove. I miss big the silver coin that I got as a voucher to the snack bar after games – and the Cream Soda Crush I chose every time.

Though I was never any good, I loved it. Time has passed and my only baseball pursuits have been attending as many pro stadiums as possible. But now I’m a father and my daughter is eight. It’s finally time. For a kid who loves to dance and reads like it sustains life, she has begun to show more than a passing interest in playing softball.

So I signed her up and we’re now two practices into the season. She played soccer once and was not terribly intrigued. But she’s a bit older and this is way more complicated. She has to learn to throw, catch, field grounders, spot fly balls, run the bases, and hit. Her first practice brought all of these to my attention quickly. All of these skills were developed decades ago – though to minimal success. I forgot about all these. So she’s got a long road ahead of her. Maybe I should have started the human growth hormone earlier.

As I walked with her to the field that first day, a flood of memories washed through my mind. I even had butterflies in my stomach. To see if I could help, I brought my glove just in case. Clearly I wasn’t the only one with such plans. About nine other dads did the same exact thing. Were we all prepared to relive our childhood through our daughters or did we just want to play catch for the first time in 20 years?

I hope she loves it or absolutely hates it. I want her to enjoy it the way I did, but I don’t want her just doing it the next ten years to fill up her weekends. I hope she excels for her own self-esteem or she accepts her God-given abilities for what they are – she’s not getting a head start athletically from her parents. I hope she takes more pride in her times of serving the homeless than in her ability to hit the ball. But please, God, just one simple request: let her hit the snot out of that ball every now and then!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Window of Cheer

You’ve gotta see my front window. We’ve been in this cool 1970s “split level” for three months now. Of its many funky features is the giant trapezoid shaped window in our living room. Pedestrians, neighbors, and drivers can’t miss the enormous glass panes across the top level of our home. When the living room is illuminated at night you can peer into our world. Along with the trapezoid shaped garage doors, these windows negate the need for us to pass out our address. When we give directions, we simply give the street number and a “look for the trapezoids…” It’s a can’t miss.

Though we frequently question the architect’s grey matter (read: “What were you thinking?”), the trapezoid window has quickly become meaningful. Without fail, if a young child in our house is awake and someone is heard starting up a car outside or pulling into the driveway, two little bodies race for the window to greet or send-off parents or visitors.

There is joy. No – elation is more like it. What is it about that window? Is it a window to the outside world, metaphorically speaking? (Okay, that was corny.) Why does a child seemingly consumed with his Buzz Lightyear doll just moments ago, drop everything to see faces outside that window?

But it has become not just their joy. It is now my joy. To them, I am a rock star! Not always of course. I’m still one of the two disciplinarians in the house. But they race across the wood floor (pitter-patter) to say hi. They hug with all their might. And of course, they race to the window.

In just a few years those faces won’t be glued to that window. They’ll have other things more stimulating to consume them. But I’m gonna take it and drink it in for now. Just this morning one was in diapers and the other in her favorite squirrel outfit. Both with hair reaching to the sky indicating a good night of sleep. They’re the same height. Their little bodies crowded next to each other hoping against all hope that I would see them as I pulled out of the driveway. Yearning to make eye contact, acknowledge them, and wave. When our eyes met they jumped up and down and waved their arms with unbridled enthusiasm. Had I replicated their exuberance, I would’ve pulled a shoulder muscle.

Thank you, God, for little kids! Give me their energy, joy, passion, and faith. And help me to hold on to these days forever.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Drywall Spirituality

The Home Improvement Continues.  Week 12:  texturing walls.  This one I've postponed for a while.  Much easier to paint & tear down walls you know?  But one bedroom is lagging way behind the others - apparently 8 year old girls don't like the rustic "chic-ness" of untextured sheetrock.  Go figure!

So we borrowed a hopper/texture gun thingy (don't know the proper term) and textured about two rooms.  It took a few tries to master - not to mention the two hours I spent scraping one wall because the texture was so gloppy and oversized we were either in grave error or setting a new trend.

The texture provides a great metaphor.  You think painting a room makes a mess?  This stuff gets everywhere!  It's sticky and attaches to shoes, doorknobs, hair, floors, pets - whatever is in the way. 

We texture because we want to make beautful what seems bland on the inside - if not downright ugly.  In the process to cover up what we don't want seen, we expose that we don't have it all together.  We make messes, we scrape off, we try to make pretty.

If you come look at my texturing, the blemishes are obvious - nothing to hide here.  But I'm okay with that.  I'm Scottish and proud not to have spent over $16 to texture two rooms!  And I've been humbled enough in life to know that God knows what my drywall looks like.

Then just as each texturing pattern (is it called orange peel?) displayed is unique (think snowflakes or fingerprints), I know that mine is beautiful in God's eyes.  It isn't like anyone else/s and it is full of character - what others may call blemishes.  But God can use that texturing pattern even though it's not perfect.  Thank you God for working through my imperfections! 

Now I can't wait til it's dry so I can paint.  I paint way better than I texture.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Mini Vacation

Whaddya do when you foresee upcoming vacation time? Well I guess that depends on your stage of life. If you’re a poor, starving college student you jump in your $300 car and crash at someone’s house for the week. If you’re retired you hop in the motor home to visit the grandkids and spoil them rotten. If you’re a parent of teenagers you probably want to go far away, but you probably don’t trust them enough to leave ‘em at the house. If you’re a parent with young kids, like me, you consider a trip to Disneyland.

Which we did for a few seconds, then remembered our new mortgage and endless projects so we took a mini vacation: 2 days, 1 night. 30 hours to be precise. We planned this one month’s ago when the weather headed south. Yes. A trip to Great Wolf Lodge. (Or as our five year old pronounces it: “Graydulf Lodge.”) A beacon of sunshine in the midst of our gray, damp winter. For those of you unfamiliar with GWL, it’s a hotel featuring an indoor waterpark. There are about ten across the country – ours is about 2 hours away. Great customer service, good food, a wee bit spendy, but very fun.

Ahhh! The blast of hot, humid air as we entered the giant, glass front doors was like taking your first bite of cheesecake after an arduous month of dieting. A bit shocking to the system, yet oh so sweet and familiar. In a millisecond I remembered what Texas’ weather is like. The contrast was even more significant since we’ve had a few weeks of weather in the 30s and even more snow.

As kids your time at waterparks is filled with running from slide to slide, fabricating your tales of epic rides, and slowly tiring yourself as the hot sun slowly vacuums away your energy. Your only worries are that sunburn and long lines preventing you from riding the Maui Zowie less than 16 times. Fast forward a few years and your days at the waterpark (and vacations in general) completely change. Success is: not throwing up in the water, not losing your children, swimmy diapers that hold everything in, keeping your own bathing suit on despite little ones who yank on them to get your attention, and only having to console one bawling child at a time. Naps are lost; stimuli are everywhere; other families’ kids are squirting you in the face with water guns while you’re juggling towels, goggles, clothes, and wet wipes.

Maybe it’s taken me a while to accept, but…I accept. Jana and I are waterpark junkies. We love those slides, warm water, sunshine, not to mention waffle cones with mint chip ice cream. But going to a waterpark is no picnic anymore. Two sets of eyes have to watch three bobbing and weaving bodies. We circle like vultures, ready to intervene at any moment. I think we are prepared for air traffic control because of these experiences. But we wouldn’t trade it. In fact this was a self-inflicted experience. Our personal exhaustion was worth it. We got to watch our kids have a blast.

The theology of a waterpark? God delights in our delight. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” says Psalm 34. Raising us is no picnic for him either, but He loves us so much that he gives us a lifetime filled with many waterpark experiences. If you have the perspective of God as a killjoy looking to ruin your day with parking tickets and flat tires, think again. All these cool things (beaches, friendships, babies, sunsets) are His. Ask Him what He’s got in store for you.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Listen, my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. – Proverbs 1:8

Where do you go when your in trouble? Uh, not the bail bonds kind; the quandary type of trouble. The correct answer would be to drop to your knees, pray for wisdom, help, and peace. Step two – do your best to recall anytime you faced the same dilemma in the past and do the opposite in case you blew it the first time. Finally, seek out wisdom.

I’d love to say this is what I always do, but often one or more of these steps are skipped and I enter the panic phase. This includes sleepless nights and an exorbitant amount of doomsday scenarios being crafted in my mind. This clearly contradicts Jesus’ words, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This year I have been guided/mentored/advised – (how about enwisened?) by about five men and women. They have been a Godsend – literally. I believe God has put them in place to counsel me, keep me sharp, reexamine my motives, and offer new ideas. It’s a different role than my wife and parents, all of whom ooze wisdom. If my family members were my teammates on a basketball team, these mentors are like my own personal coaching staff.
When I’ve faced a seeming impasse at work or in life, their input has been invaluable. I consider myself a pretty smart guy, but perhaps my greatest morsel of knowledge is that I’m not smart enough to get by on my own. There are so many people smarter and wiser than me. (Some of you may be saying, “No kidding. You’re about the dumbest guy I know.”) Some of them live locally and some of them far away. Fortunately the interweb and telephones can erase that distance.

If I were to characterize these mentors, they are about 10-20 years older than me. They are people of faith, attempting to make Jesus the center of their lives. They understand my role as pastor/parent/spouse. They listen well. They offer me lots of grace. They speak truth into my life.

My advice to you? Seek out wisdom. Read Scripture, pray often, and find people who have been in your shoes. We’re not designed to handle life on our own. Thank you, mentors and friends.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some praying to do and a few long distance phone calls to make.

Monday, February 7, 2011

At the moment my brain is like the hourglass on my computer screen. It’s taking a long time to process the week gone by. I woke up at 8am today, then again at 2pm. A long sleepless week and a disagreeable Saturday diet meant I spent most of Superbowl Sunday and the wee hours of Monday shifting every five minutes, hoping to find the right bodily position to sleep in to appease my stomach. I’m confident that I’m coming out of my stupor, but wouldn’t be surprised if I typed the words “blah, blah, blah” 200 times.

I think there’s a certain aptness to last night’s fitfulness. It mirrored the six days I spent in Chicago at the ECC’s Midwinter conference. The majority of that time I spent inside a hotel catching up to speed on Covenant theology and dealing with many present realities I face at work. It was a lot to process. Plus I’m not used to sitting at a table eight hours a day in a room without windows.

The rest of the week was spent meeting new colleagues and catching up with others I’ve met in the past few years. A few times I was adventurous enough to brave the elements and find coffee, Thai food, and the best Barbecue I’d ever tasted. (10 is not a temperature! That’s not weather!) But the most pivotal event of the week was catching up with two old friends not even part of the conference. They live in Chicago and after 14 years I got to see them.

Kirk was my faithful mentor, choir director, handbell choir director, and co-participant in the 1988 Marching Handbell Choir at the Rose Parade. His is a spirit of joy, of constant laughter, and humility. It was the first time I had seen him since his wife, Louise, passed away from cancer. His spirit still seemed the same despite losing his best friend of so many years. I ached inside for someone who doesn’t deserve this.

I also babysat Kirk & Louise’s three kids for a couple of years. Three great kids: Rachel, Meagan, Jonathan. They’re all grown up now. To my surprise Kirk said I was a godsend to them as a babysitter. (I’ve had a few of those babysitters in my life too.) But what truly sets the bar high is the gif that Rachel has been to him. When Louise got sick four years ago, Rachel quit her job, left her Virginia home, and moved to be with her parents. Now she is Kirk’s encourager and frequent companion on weekends and snow days. “Dad, I tried to call you to give you directions,” she said in the car. “I never heard the phone; let me check. Oops, it wasn’t turned on.” She shook her head with a smile like many do when technologies seem to confound their parents.

The short three hours we had together was enough to remember times gone by. Of being a teenager looking for meaning. Of being thankful for people that gave it to you. It was tough to walk out the car door and know I wouldn’t be in the neighborhood to stop by and encourage my friends. To in some way reciprocate the innumerable ways that family cared for me. But this family I do hold dear to my heart and will never be too far away to pray for.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Craig's List

What a different world we live in than when we were youngsters. Heck, even the last five years has changed things. Smart phones with GPS, Facebook, and Amazon have all changed our lives. As a non-shopper I love shopping from the comfort of my PC. No malls. No malls. And did I mention no malls?

Craig’s List has proven to be quite a time saver – and this week a medium for helping people. You may be unimpressed at my revelation, but there are real people selling those items! A few months back I bought a car via Craig’s List. As I blogged, the gentleman was in a world of hurt and needed the cash far more than the car.

This week I gave away a few items. Don’t pat me on the back just yet. Item #1: empty cardboard boxes – about 100 of them. It cleared my garage and I wasn’t forced to stuff them in the recycling bin the next 13 weeks, so it helped me out.

When I unloaded the boxes I discovered the story of a woman who was moving out of state in conjunction with her parents. A new job would provide better income, but would also yield a loss of community. The woman’s mother has cancer. A cancer for which little can be done save multiple tumor removal surgeries. I met “mom” and asked about her potential for a support network. Her church here promises to stay in touch, but there was some anxiety about the big move. So I got to pray with her.
Feeling very generous (because we’re studying generosity at church this month), I chose to give away item #2: a couch. I guess I could have sold it for a few bucks, but it had been a gift so I felt a wee bit guilty following that route. Anyhoo, the first person to respond to the couch said he’d be by in the morning. I grumbled when he didn’t show up on time and thought I’d wasted 45 minutes. But he showed up, revealing that it had been a two hour drive to get to my house!

He must really need this couch. He proceeded to share that the couch was for he and his wife. They have five kids and they just gave most of their furniture for his mother who’s in a bad place (physically, not geographically). His truck was humble – maybe worth $300. He was missing a few teeth and was in physical pain from a work related injury.

I quickly sized up that he hadn’t been as wise as me in high school. Probably didn’t study as hard and he probably reaped what he sowed. Within milliseconds I was reminded of Pastor Sharon’s sermon yesterday. I don’t deserve what I have. It’s all a gift! Thank God for my parents. Thank God that I haven’t had any life-altering disabilities. In that moment I also remembered her challenge to be content. I do this every once in a while when I meet people worse off than me. The other 23 hours a day I complain about everything under the sun.

As you strive to be content and thankful, I urge you to look for the lonely, ignored, and hurting in your everyday life. As I’m learning, you may have to peel an extra layer to find the story, but it’s there! Be the ministers to those online, in coffee houses, and to your next door neighbors.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Not Kissin' Up...Really!

As my sister’s boyfriend recently declared, we Frasers are cheap. So in lieu of flowers, today I decide to declare my love electronically for my wife. (She’s at work today and isn’t allowed to receive flowers anyway.) And this post doesn’t come on the heels of some idiot move by yours truly – I swear!

For those of you in a less than great marriage, I am truly sorry. The marriage relationship is one which should parallel our relationship to God. Sadly for some it’s the obedience component of the relationship with God that is the only parallel – your marriage has one master and one follower. But another component of knowing God is the forgiveness, honesty, joy, and fun he initiates between us and himself. If yours is a God who plots unnecessary misery for you, you don’t know my God. No, His objective is not to get me through life without a scratch. But through life’s ups and downs he offers unequaled companionship, peace, and solace.

This is what my marriage most often looks like. Two imperfect people, who love each other mightily, experience life’s highs and lows with the comfort of being friends - constantly holding one another’s hands.

For fifteen years, life has been good. There have been highs and lows, but mostly we’ve been spoiled. Despite incredible events and people, life threw us a curve ball this most recent season. Though we suffered mildly compared to most in our world, we experienced enough heartache to appreciate the little things. With little else to cling to, we watched our little people circle around us like Jupiter’s moons and we’ve fallen more in love.

More often than not we discuss God’s blessings in our lives. We laugh a lot, grumble a bit, and share secrets. Our jobs both require a degree of anonymity so when we can’t be specific, we still understand each other well.

Unlike most romantic comedies, we understand marriage is not salvation. Jesus is perfect. Jana’s not. And you KNOW I’m not. But like those sappy movies, we sure are having a blast. Having recently moved into our new home, much of the transiency and worry is leaving us behind. We’re planting roots and pretending we’d never consider job offers in Tahiti. (Their coffee isn’t nearly as good!)

Tomorrow is not promised and even if it comes, sorrow may follow – or another stinkin’ leaky toilet. But this I know: because she is my wife, I AM blessed. I love you, baby! In the immortal words of Nacho Libre, “Hug, hug, kiss, kiss. Big hug, little hug. Big kiss, little kiss.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Best Seats Ever!

I promise – last football post for a long time. But you have to hear about this one. For my recent 40th, my parents bought me tickets to go see the Seahawks. They bought them off one of those re-sell your tickets websites for season ticket holders – in case you forgot about your cousin’s barber’s Uncle Morty’s 90th birthday in Walla Walla which someone rudely scheduled on a Sunday during football season. And because you’re greedily hoping to stay in his good graces because you want him to bequeath you his 57 Chevy, you gotta go.

That’s a bit sharp, but it gets you in the right, selfish frame of mind. Please forgive my artistic license. So my folks bought two seats for Jana and me for the last game of the year a few months back. Because of their moderate success (especially compared to the ‘08-‘09 seasons) all I hoped for was a meaningful game from my new team. Had they been out of the playoff picture, the energy wouldn’t have been there. It would have been like a scrimmage – a mere exhibition game with a hot dog and coke on the side. But because the NFC West was pathetic and the stars all aligned (I don’t think God providentially chooses to determine most or any games), the winner of the Seahawks v. Rams would be in the playoffs.

Upon entering the stadium we were given the unfamiliar direction of walking DOWN to our seats (Fraser seats are usually up – WAY UP). Row J was our three hour home. Translation – 10 rows from the field. Close enough to see that even the punters are uncharacteristically gigantic humans. Close enough to have to look around the sideline television camera. Incredible seats. Incredible game. We froze because there was no cloud cover. But we didn’t care. Our feet are sore because we never sat down – everyone stood the whole game. (And because I made Jana walk over a mile to a parking spot – I ain’t paying $30 to park!) My voice is gone today. But that’s okay – no preaching on Mondays, just blogging and emails.

Today’s lesson? Ummm. Go to football games for a great date? Nope. Let’s see. Sometimes good seats are worth it? Nah. How about this: life is like the playoffs! Had the Seahawks lost – season over. But because they won, there’s a buzz around town. People are excited, and somewhat afraid, that the Saints are marching in next week (the Superbowl winners, not the Christian Church mothers and fathers of centuries gone by). There is hope. There is joy. We’re scheming to find out how to avoid their complex defense. We’re debating who’s going to be our quarterback.

God wants His Church to be that alive. To passionately hash out our opinions. To come together to high five believers we’ve never met. To choose our leaders. To strategize the best way to carry the life-altering news of Jesus Christ to the world. At some point the playoffs will be over. Our time is limited. We don’t get a second chance to live our lives. We cannot take things likely. Win or go home.

May those of you unfamiliar with life with Christ know the thrill of playing for His team. May those of you who’ve chosen to be on His team live like you’re in the playoffs!