Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The greatest gift of all

(Originally published in Corsica Globe 12/21/10)

In high school in southern California, I worked many odd jobs to make a buck. Somehow, through a variety of connections, I landed a gig with a strip mall playing characters during promotional events. For St. Patrick’s Day, I was a leprechaun (a 6 foot 5 leprechaun), in the summer, I was a cowboy, for Chinese New Year, I was a dragon (lack of peripheral vision and a long uncontrollable tail landed to many stores asking us not to return in costume). I even played Santa Clause. This was a fun gig, playing Santa. People respected Santa. Even though you knew that there was a regular Joe under that fake (and very scratchy) beard, you still treated him with respect. Why? Because, somehow deep down, you really didn’t want to get put on ANY naughty list. Yes, kids cried when they saw you, but people in general treated you nicely. I sat around all day ho-ho-hoing, promising things I never could keep and all in all making people happy.

I also played the Easter Bunny. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I did so twice. Christmas time in Southern California is chilly, but nice. Think of it as how our November was this fall. That was winter. Spring on the other hand is a nice South Dakota summer. As the Easter Bunny, I was in a full polyester costume. Scratchy. Itchy. It didn’t breath. I so hoped that others didn’t realize just how ripe I thought I smelled. I had to wear a giant plastic bunny head, with a crown support that dug into my forehead. With the plastic bunny head in a hot sun it became a bunny head shaped oven set to 350. I was hot. I was tired. My feet hurt. My arms hurt from carrying that blasted basket filled with 700lbs of pathetic plastic eggs no one really wanted. To top it off, people didn’t treat me nicely. Unlike Santa, the Easter Bunny doesn’t have a naughty list (let alone a nice list). And so I was slapped, hit, tail pulled, kids ran away crying, and high school kids made fun of me. All the while being paid five bucks an hour. I hated it. I hated my life at that moment. But no one knew it. Because all they saw was the huge, gigantic moronic grin plastered on the face of the bunny. No matter what I was feeling inside the suit, everyone thought I was happy.

What does this have to do with Christmas? The gift of Christmas is fulfilled in Easter. Let me explain. Like that experience as the Easter bunny, there are many times when we’re hurting or cranky or upset or all the above. Everything’s a bubble off par. Our kids aren’t the least angelic, our marriage’s a wreck, the business is going down the tubes and no one knows. All they see is that grin on your face saying all’s okay in life. And then of course, you bump into someone who’s going through their own mess and they too have a big fake smile too plastered on their face. We’re all doing okay. No! That’s the problem. We’re not. As a human being, we do this, and sometimes we do it so well we believe ourselves that all’s okay.

This is the gift of Christmas fulfilled in Easter. On that first Christmas, Jesus was born. Why? The Christmas carols say it well “Hark! The Herald angels sing “Glory to the new born king; Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled." Jesus came to reconcile us with God. What does that mean? To tear down the walls we’ve built, to tear away the things we’ve hidden from each other, ourselves and even God. He came to restore relationships—our relationship with God, ourselves and each other. Jesus proclaimed peace, he cried when he was grieved, and he admitted to his closest circle when he was in need of praying to His Father in heaven.

So many times, we wear a mask like the Easter Bunny. We hide who we are. We hide our financial troubles; we hide how we feel about ourselves, about our family. We hide behind a gigantic fake grin. This Christmas, accept the greatest gift of all. It’s the gift of Christmas fulfilled Easter morning, when Jesus rose again from the grave, defeated death, and broke down the walls of sin, the walls that separated our relationship with God, and with one another. Take off the mask and accept the gift of love, of peace, of reconciliation, the freedom to be you before friends, loved ones and most importantly God Himself. This Christmas it is the best gift you can give yourself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spiritual ADD

I'm ADD. I really am. Though at times I like to call it ADHLAS (Attention Deficit...Hey, Look! A Squirrel!)The joking question in my family when I get distracted is "shiny object?"

I was diagnosed with it 6 years ago while in sem. It explained a lot to me. It was a no brainer to everyone who knows me. But I didn't go on meds. Why? Because I wanted to attempt behavioral modification instead. I have nothing against meds for ADD/ADHD. In fact, I know from experience doing youth group that is VERY helpful. But I personally didn't want to use it. But, seasons change, and so do I. I've recently went on a newish ADD/ADHD med that seems to be helping. We're still fiddling with it. Still trying to see what works best. It's a process we're working... squirrel! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. ADD.

A few things about being ADD. It's not just having a hard time focusing. It's having a hard time sitting still, finishing tasks. You want to but in on everyone's conversation because you don't want to be left out. You can get distracted very.. shiny object.. easily.

But there's also the problem of hyper focusing. That's when for some reason or another, you just zone in on one thing and one thing only and spend eternity perfecting it, ignoring the world around you.

Why is this on a blog about being healthy and being spiritual? Because, I truly think that there's such a thing as Spiritual ADD. To be honest, I think it's a Biblical thing too. I truly think that Peter was the first documented case of ADD. He's jumping into boats, jumping out of boats, blurts out the wrong thing at the wrong time, brings a knife to a gun fight.


But he also was spiritually ADD. He couldn't always focus on what was happening spiritually. Jesus tried to explain what was going to happen, and Peter blurted out that it shouldn't happen. Peter thought he was doing right be defending Jesus but he was taking spiritual matters into his own hands. He was hyper focused why warming himself, not realizing what was fully going on with Jesus' trial until the rooster crowed.

We do that too. We can have spiritual ADD. This is most evident in prayer. We start to pray, and then we lose focus. We fidget.. we look at our watch, we start thinking about the tasks of the day, refocus on God, then loose track about what we were praying about.

This also happens in our daily faith walk as well. We're distracted by spiritual shiny things that get in the way. We focus on the spiritual squirrels of life and start to lose sight of the cross of Christ.

Other times, we can hyper focus just on one thing. We can become so hyper focused about being able to walk on the water that we forget the fact that it isn't about us walking on the water but more so about getting out of the boat and focusing on Jesus.

There are no meds for Spiritual ADD. There's only behavioral modification. And it does work, but it takes time and a conscious effort to move forward walking towards the cross. It takes effort to focus on Jesus and not be distracted by shiny objects of spiritual squirrels.

Where in your spiritual walk do you need to do behavioral modification in focusing on the cross of Christ? How can you do that?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trial, Error and following the Holy Spirit

It's been a little while now since I've sat down and written. I've been mulling a few things over. I've been hitting the weights, doing my cardio and keeping up with my friend about staying with it. Yet something has been getting at me.

Some weeks ago, while I was working out at the gym, a couple of high schoolers were there. They came in towards the end of my workout. I watched them for a little bit. I saw that they were doing stretches a bit awkward and some wrong. I then observed them try to do an incline press and were struggling with it. Their form was off and they obviously were using to much weight. The same was true with the bench press. As I finished working out, another member came in whom I have a small acquaintance with. Though tired, exhausted and wanting to go home and shower, I tried to nicely explain to the high schoolers that they needed to better work on form and how much weight to lift, as well as where to start. They looked at me blankly and I felt like a schlub. But I truly felt a nudge to talk to them. I truly did.

The next day, I bumped into the acquaintance who had watched the exchange. I explained to him that schlub feeling. But he gave me encouragement. He explained that they needed some guidance in working out.

I knew form experience what can happen with poor form and too much weight. And it hurts. I truly felt led to talk to these high schoolers though what I said I'm not sure stuck nor was accepted.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I learned that someone I knew in the Chicagoland area had died form a bad (and somewhat dumb) accident. I felt horrible. What is worse is the fact that I felt guilty for not talking to him about my faith. I wasn't sure where he was spiritually. For over a year, he and I shot the breeze. We talked sports, politics, and other guy stuff. Yet I never spoke to him about my faith, about Christ, or eternal life. And now he's dead. I don't know where he's at and it bothers me.

When I do evangelism training, I talk about following the leading of the Holy Spirit. I felt a nudge to speak to those high schoolers about weight lifting, which I truly believe was the prompting of the Spirit. Yet I never felt a nudge, a twitch or even a full kick to the bum to speak to my friend who now has passed. What gives? It bothers me and I don't know how to fully process it.

I speak of spiritual health and that we are fully human--mind body and soul. All three are connected. And I know it is not up to me who listens and who doesn't. And I know that it is up to the leading of the Holy Spirit to move in order to speak. Yet I wonder, why didn't I feel the leading of the Spirit for my friend who has passed yet I did for high schoolers whom I feel blew me off? Why, I don't know.

I will still listen, I will still follow. I will still lift and I will still try to talk when prompted. Yet I may never truly nor fully know why I'm not prompted to speak and other times I am.