Saturday, November 21, 2015

People Business... (Insert Job Here)

The irony of blogging about Chick Fil A, whilst sitting in Chick Fil A.  Now, before you start question why the heck I would write about a fast food restaurant, hear me out.

I was one of the crazies that camped out the night before CFA opened here in Purcellville.  I wanted that chicken for a year, and I wanted it bad. But what I came away with wasn't just free food.  I got a healthy dose of perspective.

I had a chance to meet Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick Fil A.  He travels around and sets up his tent, camping out with his future guests.  And something he said to me really got me thinking.  He said, "This isn't a food business. It's a people business disguised as a chicken restaurant."  Now, you may think that is cliche, but broaden how you look at it.  That applies to so much more than just a business model.

Everything that we do as Christians should be focused on those around us.  Whatever we do, we should look at is as a people business.  Because everything that we do has the opportunity to become that.  If you're working in construction, minister to people by keeping your job site clean, respecting their home while you're working, and being honest in your quotes as well as your expense reports.  If you work as a custodian, pour yourself into your work, leaving the areas clean as a reflection of the order that is found in the nature of God.

Everything we do should point people upwards and towards the Father.  That's the very reason that the builders of cathedrals built them so large, with vaulted ceilings and stained glass, was to draw the eyes of all who entered the cathedral up towards heaven.  That should be our goals in our place of business.  As we carry ourselves, interact with people, and go from the day to day with our lives, our goal should be to let people see us, and automatically wonder what is different about us. Whether in how we speak to others, how we face difficulties, and how we show the love of Christ in what we do.

So that being said, I'm a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, disguised as a bartender.  I work in an outreach center that looks an awful lot like a farm to table restaurant.  And my tools of ministry look, smell, and taste amazing.  So come in, let me show you some great food, and if you want me to pray for you, say so.  There's always room to pray between dropping a check and running your card. And it'll fill you up more than any dish I can put in front of you.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Just a few thoughts... Yes, I still have those.

It's been a long time, y'all.  A lot has changed since I last wrote.  I have some good people in my life.  I have some people that I can trust.  People who have my back.  I have more members in that wonderful crazy group of those I consider my family.  But I'm sitting here tonight, a million thoughts running through my brain.  But I'm going to pick a couple and see if I can actually flesh them out.

1.  You can save a life, but you can't make someone live it.

Not saying that I've saved anyone's life, but I think that we can offer people the chance at life by telling them what they need to hear.  However, you can only take it so far.  You can offer them what they need to walk rightly and be people of substance, but you can't make them walk the path that you think they should.  Nor can you make them into something they don't want to be or something they're not.  I struggle with this a hell of a lot.  I watch as people struggle and just want to drag them to where I think they should be, but if you pull someone out of the water, they never learn to swim.  It's not my job to be their "life-guard" and I mean that in more ways than one.  Sometimes, you have to let people walk their own path.  And your paths might lead in opposite directions.  But whatever you do, don't stray from your own path.  You're on it for a reason, and walking the way that you are for a purpose.  Chase that purpose.

2.  Don't be afraid of being by yourself (for now).

It's better to be alone that to be around people who drag you down.  Alone isn't a permanent thing.  You can search out people who build you up and actually pour into you.  That is so much better than being around people who always take or are toxic to where you need to be in life.  It's not a good thing to settle for a lower standard just so that you have someone.  I'm working on this.  A lot.  Sometimes the short game looks so good.  It's the here and now that is tempting, and far too often, I think we're willing to trade a phenomenal long term for an alright here and now.  Stick with it.  Hold out for the filet and don't settle for the chuck.

3.  Don't be afraid to take a chance or do something crazy.

Within reason! Before I get a text message from my mom wondering what the hell I've gotten myself into.  I think that so often, I'm focused on what is directly in front of me and don't ever look up from the path at my feet.  Take a chance.  Say hello, sit in a chair, all night if you have too.  Sometimes you might make a friend, get some food, or just be able to see a sunrise if you want to.  I really don't want to miss out on some amazing opportunities because I'm afraid of change or not making a difference.  So I'm going to take some chances.  I'm going to ask some questions.  What is the worst that someone can say?  No?  I like those odds.  It's kind of a pass fail.  I always thought it was easier that way.

So join me: walk this crazy, wild, twisted path called life and we'll see where it takes us.  I need to find some roads I haven't been down recently.  Want to come along?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dropkick Jesus

I climbed a mountain the other day.  I climbed it to talk to God.  I couldn't hear Him amongst all the bustle and signals and internet and music and shouts inside my own head.  So I climbed a mountain.
I asked God something while I was up there.
I released something to Him, and I didn't like the answer that I got.  It felt like a sucker punch.  I had this idea in my head, that if I gave it to Him, that He'd give it right back.
I even went so far as to build an ebenezer stone.  I stacked up all those rocks, taking time, getting angry as it collapsed time and again.  I took twelve stones that didn't have smooth sides; they didn't fit together, but I had to balance them.  And when I got done, I scratched a prayer onto the top stone.  And God answered that prayer with what might be considered a sandal to the side of the head.
So be careful what you pray for.  God might answer it.
But I did learn something about Ebenezers.  They take time to balance.  It takes patience.  And it takes a lot of work.  It can be a lot like waiting for God.  It's hard.  It can lead to scraped knuckles, scuffed boots, and injured pride.  But it's worth it.  Just takes a little time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let the Tears Come Now.

A faint hearted seven year old sat quietly in the corner of the funeral chapel.  If you'd have asked him, he wasn't seven.  He was seven and three quarters.  Almost eight, you know.  There's a big difference.  He didn't understand why he was there.  He didn't know the man in the box.
Of course, he knew of him.  But he didn't know him.  All he remembered about the man was a yellow bunny that squeaked when you squeezed it.  A strange smell.  An even stranger machine.  What were all these hoses and cords doing running into the man who everyone around him called "Dad" and "Grandpa" and "Wilbur"?  Those were the memories that the almost eight year old had about the man in the box.
Between games of war with his older cousin, he ran his fingers over the new deck of cards that he'd been given after hours spent in the funny smelling apartment, and walked over to his mom to see when they would be going home.  His mom told him that he'd be done soon.  "Just be patient," she said.
They all went to the restaurant later that night.  People that he didn't know very well, but that he knew he liked.  The two men that were his uncle's began asking him who was his favorite.  "He has a pink shirt on," the one said.  "Yeah, but my shirt has these little feathers on the back," the other said with a crooked smile.  Of course the one in the pink shirt was his favorite at the time.  He had on cowboy boots.  He was the real deal.  But this was a man he'd met but once by that time.
The next day, they gathered outside.  All huddled inside the little chain link fence.  A single evergreen stood watch on that cold February day.  A small hole.  A shovel just the right size for an almost eight year old.  A small gold box to put in the ground.  And then, just like that, all those men who'd sat around eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes and beans the night before put dirt on the box and walked away.
The almost eight year old didn't cry.  Didn't know why he would.  And he heard from countless people, how tough he was.  No tears.  "Cowboys don't cry."  "Good job."

Fast forward now.  He's no longer an almost eight year old.  Instead, he's an 18 year old.  No more almosts.  Just life.  It's exactly 18, actually.  He stands in yet another funeral chapel.  This one makes more sense though.  No card games to hide behind.  No cousins to cover up what happened.  Just person upon person coming up to give their sympathies and their condolences.  No tears come.  Just thanks, firm hand shakes, hugs, and the occasional birthday card, bag of Snickers, balloon, and pat on the back.
He sees people feeling sorry for him.  But that doesn't matter.  Because this time, he knew the girl in the box.  He'd known her for years.  He'd known her laugh, stood beside her at her wedding.  She was family.  And not far removed.  She was someone he'd fought over, fought with, laughed with, cried about, and loved.  It wasn't easy.  It was a love he had to learn, but it was worth learning.  It was hard to learn, but it was worth learning.
There was an accomplishment to that love.  It was a step above himself and something that grew him.  And that growing was over.  Cut short, snuffed out, snipped off, and held in.  But still, no tear came.  He had a job to do.  His was to stand in front, be the representative, and show people that they would stay strong.
The next day, they're standing.  All four of them.  Wearing black, blue, ties, bolos, a borrowed jacket, and standing tall.  Then they came in.  A wheel chair.  A tired face, followed by two more tired faces.  One who couldn't do more than raise his eyes.  No smile was on his lips.  Instead, they were silhouetted by a scar.  Again, they had a job to do.  They surrounded him.  Holding back the handshakes, hugs, and tears from drowning the one in the chair.
Two slipped by, but they were gently ushered back.  The chair wheeled to the front of the sanctuary, flanked by four guards.  Still no tears come.  No time for them.  And yet, as a frail hand reaches up and cold flesh meets cold metal.  A tear.  A sob racks his frame.  But no more.  No time.  He's hurried out.  Wheels turning.  Eyes follow.  Pity flows.  Quick hugs.  A long missed handshake, hug, a leather jacket.
Then moving on.  A car.  A cemetery.  It's all grey.  Grey in memory, grey in color, grey in feel.

And now.  Tears come.  Tears held back for five years.  Not for lack of trying, or lack of wondering, or lack of feeling.  But for lack of remembering.  Lack of growth, lack of strength, lack of knowing that it's okay.

This is my story.  This is my grief.  Through this grief, I have found joy.  A new life started.  New family.  And the realization that this is all in the shadowlands.  This world will end.  Look to the glimpses of heaven.  The small reflections of paradise.  But when the tears come, let them come.  It's okay.

Let the tears come now.

For in eternity, they will be no more.

Cowboys cry.

I'm sure of it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Until I End My Wand'ring Days

Most days I feel like a Ranger.
A dusty rider, rusted blade on hip,
Working my way through the wilderness and through the villages.
I hide my face, hoping to simply pass through.
I serve my purpose, praying to fade behind the scenes.

I see people laughing, eating together, walking arm in arm. 
I see the joy in their eyes and it sparks something inside.
But that's all it can do, is spark.
There's some kind of emptiness inside.  
A dry and cracked land in the middle of fertile ground.

I know the potential is there.  
I know that one day, it will grow a bountiful harvest.
I know that one day, a home will spring up on it.
Laughter will fill its halls.
Its tables will be full of delightful food.

So I ride on.
I wait for the rain.
I seek out other dusty barren lands like myself.
One day, the floodgates will open. 
I will find my home.

That is the day, when I am a Ranger no more.
That is the day that instead of a sword, my hand holds another's.
When I pick up a hammer and build,
Instead of tightening the straps on the saddle and moving on.
That is when I find my home.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Psalm 147:10-11

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, 
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 20:7

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fighting It Tonight

Life is not a damn cartoon.  We can't run off the cliff and keep going for a good fifty feet.  It doesn't work that way.  It is a slow slide towards a dropoff that we know is coming.  You see it coming up.  You grasp at anything around to stop your slide towards the fall is coming.  You claw at bushes, talk to friends, call out for help.  But none comes.  You're only left with the echo of your own cries in your ears.  So what do you do?  Do you allow yourself to get sucked into the vortex that lies waiting for you at the bottom of the drop off?  Do you run towards the edge and dive off the edge, trying to see how deep you wind up going?  That answer remains to be seen, but my gut says no.  My get says run towards the edge, but right when you get there, leap.  Put everything you have into that leap from the edge.  Get as far as you can, and maybe, just maybe, you'll make it to the other side tonight.  You'll have another jump and drop off in your way, who knows when, but at least you'll be over this one tonight.  So wish me luck.  Here I go, and I hope my legs hold out.  I've got a long ways to jump.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A long familiar nightmare...

I watch as its cold, bony fingers wrap around the posts of my bed.
The dead look in its eyes is a mirror.  It reflects what I feel inside every night.
It reflects the hurt that keeps me awake at night.
Hurt that no one around sees.
Hurt that no one can fix.
The claws on the ends of those fingers reach into my chest and freeze my heart in my chest for the umpteenth time.
The knot in the pit of my stomach tightens and twists, matching the lump in my throat.  The sounds of sadness thunder in my headphones, reminding me once again that this is what I'm left with.
A dark room, the sounds of country fading in my Bose, a tangle of clothes on the floor, and the knowledge that when I crawl out of bed in the morning, dog tired, sleepless, and exhausted for the next day, not a thing will have changed. Except I'll be another day older, and no closer to being out of the dark.
So I stride through the blackness. Waiting for a hand to reach down from above. To split the clouds. To bring some warmth and joy back into the wasteland that is my heart.  I don't know how long it will be, but I pray that it is soon. Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come quickly.