Monday, January 26, 2015

Love Does: The Spoken-Word Poem

What does love do?

Does it, at the sight of her,
use the wings of a thousand butterflies
to tickle your heart and send it on a roller coaster ride
in, around, and through your chest?

No, that’s attraction.

Does love wait on her doorstep in a tuxedo,
roses in one hand, champagne in the other,
with an 80’s rock anthem blaring in the background?

No, that’s romance.

What love does is
pay for lunch when you’ve forgotten your wallet
love comes with you, cheers you along,
and celebrates with you when accomplish your dreams
Love drives 2 hours simply to sit with you in tearful silence at a funeral.

Love picks you up, dusts you off,
and reminds you that you are not the sum of your shortcomings and failures.

What love does, has done, and will continue to do is
take this heart of stone,
which has been marred by abuse
and calloused by neglect,
and turn it into a heart of flesh
that lives and beats,
hopes and believes.

Love begins with the heart but does not stop there,
it propels life out into the extremities
and changes the whole person.
It has transformed prostitutes into princesses,
murderers into missionaries,
and critics into collaborators
and it will transform the scared,
selfish little boy I believe myself to be
into a mighty man seeking after Gods own heart.

Love does not do all of this to gain for itself,
but rather love does to show us how amazing we truly are
and to teach us how to live as beloved.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Compliments and Free Couches: Learning the Art of Self-value

I work retail, so between helping customers and stocking shelves there is usually quite a bit of time to converse with my boss and coworkers. Lately, one of our favorite topics of discussion has been my endeavors into dating that, I have to admit, are pretty comical. While discussing my most recent “failure to launch” my boss quipped, “Maybe you’re like a couch that you don’t want anymore, if you put it on the curb with a sign that says “FREE” no one will touch it, but as soon as you say it costs $5, it will go”. It was funny and as I thought about it throughout the rest of my shift that day I began to realize how true it was: no one will recognize the value of what you are offering until you put value on it yourself.

That night, on my bike ride home, I received one of the most meaningful compliments I’ve been offered recently. A pedestrian shouted to me (twice), “You’re lights are excellent!” I replied with a quick “Thank you” and continued home because while my lights were excellent, my clothing choice was not and I was really cold. As I arrived home I began to ponder why I appreciated this stranger’s compliment so much. It was because I agreed with him. My lights are excellent: I’ve spent a decent amount of money on them and get pretty excited when talking about them. It was nice to have someone else acknowledge the value I put on them.

It made me realize that there are a lot of compliments that I am offered that I don’t receive, a lot of praise that I shrug off insisting that the person must be misinformed. I simply don’t agree with them about the value they see in me. I want to learn to see the value others see in me and stop deprecating the man that I am. I want to be able to receive any compliment offered to me with genuine thanks.

This concept transfers into my faith life because the biggest compliment that I constantly reject is that I’m beloved, so much so that Jesus was willing to die for me in order to have a relationship with me. Brennan Manning wrote, “Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games or pop psychology. IT IS AN ACT OF FAITH in the God of grace.” It is time for me to have a little faith, accept myself as I am, and learn to receive any and all compliments I am offered.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ending Well, Disappointed

“Goals shouldn't be easy and they shouldn't always be met, because then they're not really goals" --Tim Ek

The New Year is a time many of us use to “start over”, set goals for ourselves (or rather the selves we hope to become), and do our best to start on a path towards achieving them.

During the past week I’ve spent a little time looking back on my year gone by and I have to admit that I feel disappointed about some of the goals I set for myself in January 2014: my weight still hovers around 200 pounds, I’m still employed by the same company, and I’m still single. On top of these things remaining unchanged throughout 2014, there seems to be very little hope of them changing in 2015.

But, I’ve come to that conclusion only looking at 2 of 365 days.

In the other 363 I’ve done a lot of work that I don’t give myself credit for. I biked over 4,000 miles, finished races that I wouldn’t have imagined completing even a year ago, and logged race times I thought were reserved for guys who weigh 50 pounds less than me and have $10,000 carbon-fiber bicycles.  I started running, practicing yoga regularly, and enjoying vegetables. I started a leadership position at my church. I asked around 35 women out to coffee and even went on a quite a few dates. I faced a lot of heartache, confusion, and adversity including being stung on the lip by a wasp at the halfway point of one of my century rides. In my attempts to accomplish my goals I have learned a lot about my heart and myself.

My sense of accomplishment should come from those 363 days, not in the accomplishment of some lofty aspirations I had set for myself on an equally as frigid morning a year ago. At the same time, I would have never experienced those successes had I not set those goals that I didn’t achieve in the first place. As a man who’s perpetually questioning whether or not he is wasting his time, this is a very hard concept for me to wrap my head around.

I’m often tempted to treat these “in-the-process” successes like some sort of pitiful consolation prizes, decide that accomplishing my goals isn’t worth the time and effort, give up and quit. This will inevitably undo any progress I had made: my body will still want to consume the same amount of calories it took in while I was exercising daily, I wouldn’t have to leave my house, and I’d stop dreaming. The pounds would start stacking up, my muscles would atrophy, self-doubt and self-deprecation would return, and the thought of change would become simply overwhelming.

So, this year I’m still setting some pretty lofty goals for myself. While I hope to achieve them all, I’m going to be ok with some disappointment because I’m putting value on the effort I’ll put into achieving goals that will challenge me, instead of the single moment of having accomplished them.

Galatians 6:9
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”