When life gives you a dead lizard…

February 5, 2011

I went to a worship service last night. The main reason I was interested in going was because a kid I used to babysit, way back in the day, when I was merely a baby myself, was leading worship. Well, he’s not really a kid anymore, and has turned out to be a fine young man, despite any involvement I might have had in his life. As he was up there playing music, and the people were around me worshipping God, I found myself looking around and thinking. I saw people passionately speaking and singing words of praise and adoration; some more or less passionate than others. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in those people’s lives, you know, like, behind the scenes.

I didn’t know what they were going through, but I started thinking about how easy it is to offer praise when everything’s going your way. I equally thought about how beautiful it is to see someone offer gratefulness when they are going through the most difficult, horrible experiences. It’s truly a beautiful thing to observe; truly moving. The night went on and my thoughts about that continued.

Which, eventually, led me to think about gift receiving…

Imagine a little six-year-old boy at his birthday party. I will call him Bud. All of his best friends are there, dressed like cowboys, or whatever. The atmosphere is festive; balloons, streamers, annoying blower-noise-maker-thingys, a group of people singing Happy Birthday in different pitches, and a huge, colossal stack of presents! Each present in the stack is uniquely wrapped; some done “professionally” by a store, others done by the parents, and some boasting of a genuine effort of a child. And, eventually, it comes time to open the presents. Exciting! Imagine Bud opening all the different presents you might see these days; you’re going to have to truly imagine it because I’m pretty out of touch with what might be seen at a six-year-old’s birthday party in this day and age.

Bud would probably receive all kinds of nice, expensive things, with the tiny gift givers beaming in pride as Bud excitedly says it’s “just what” he wanted; Playstation games, iTunes gift vouchers, robotic hamster toys, the complete Harry Potter box set, and the likes. But then Bud comes to one of the last gifts, one that got pushed to the side and unnoticed, maybe because it’s wrapped in a Kroger’s brown paper bag, and not even really taped, but held together with a dirty old shoe string.

The little gift giver, however, feels no shame, and watches with excitement as Bud reaches for his gift. I’ll call him Billy. Billy, in comparison to the other kids’ clothes, is dressed in the equivalent to the way his present is wrapped; like, hand-me-down-and-down-and-down-and-downs. As Bud begins to open Billy’s gift, maybe with a, “What could this be, Billy,” Billy glows with pride, as though it is the best gift he has ever given. Parents, more tainted and jaded by lives lived, nervously watch. And then, finally, Bud makes it through the brown paper bag, sticks his hand in, and comes out with a…dirty, scratched up, used, neon yellow frisbee!

It is obvious by the look in Billy’s eyes when he sees it emerge from the brown paper, that this was not just some random item found and wrapped; this meant something to him, and he was giving it with a true giving heart. Other kids look around awkwardly like, “What is that thing?” or “What kind of gift is that?!” as Bud holds the frisbee up in the air. Bud smiles ecstatically, grips the frisbee tighter, looks Billy in the eyes and says, “Man!! A frisbee! I’ve always wanted one of these! I can’t wait to get out and try it!” Billy looks like he might just possibly explode from pure delight. The other kids don’t get it.

I guess the gift could have even been “worse”; an old dirty shoe, a half eaten candy bar, a marble with a chip in it, a dead lizard, whatever. But whatever you imagine the present as, Bud’s reaction was genuinely grateful. In comparison to the gifts around him, the used frisbee was modest, to say the least, but Bud found real words to express genuine gratitude, maybe not even so much for the gift itself, but rather to the gift giver, and the heart behind it. I wonder how I would have responded as a six-year-old?

And yes, not all gifts are given with a true giving heart. A kid could have been like, “Ugh, I have to go to this stupid party AND I have to buy a gift, oh wait, there’s a dead lizard, perfect!” But the way the gift is received is still up to the receiver, and purpose can be found within every gift, no matter how big, or small, or “useless” it is perceived to be. At the same time another kid, we’ll call him Dick, could have opened the many various Playstation games, and what not, and shown the very minimal amount of thrill. Kind of like, “Oooh, Maddan 12. I bet it’s just like the other 11, but with different players,” as Dick tosses it to the side and reaches for the next gift. Imagine how a kid like Dick would respond to the used frisbee. Ouch.

When all is said and done, it is really not about the gift itself, though some gifts may hold more sentimental value. I would go as far as saying it’s not really even about the heart with which the gift is given, though that makes a huge difference in our emotional response. It all comes down to the gift receiver, and whether or not he or she can be truly thankful, no matter what the gift may be. And I’m not talking about mustering up fabricated words of praise, “Oh, Wow! You have gone way too far! This is extraordinary! Oh man, oh man! You have outdone yourself!” Dick, “Um, yeah, it’s just a dead lizard I found in my yard.” No, I’m talking about true gratefulness, despite the gift, finding real purpose in it, no matter what it may be. That can be tricky.

I see life, in and of itself as a gift. I think there are other smaller gifts, not to mention challenges, that come with that greater gift, but I see life itself as the one true gift. Whatever comes after the initial gift are mere details. Sometimes we may go through a dead lizard season, and sometimes we may be in a Lamborghini season, and we are capable of responding gratefully or ungratefully in either or both of those seasons. Even Dick might be able to muster up excitement when gifted a Lamborghini, though I would not put it past him to even be ungrateful like, “Oh cool. A car.” But it takes a real trooper like Bud to find true purpose in that dead lizard present, offering real, genuine words of gratitude.

I think life is a gift, and sometimes it’s perceived usefulness changes and shifts in our mind, depending on what we are going through. Sometimes it really sucks, sometimes it’s awesome. But I don’t think it changes the fact that every moment we breathe is another moment that was given to us, something we did not work for or earn. People whine and moan and complain about stuff, looking up to the sky blaming God for things He might not even be responsible for, whilst others look up to the sky and say, “I’m just glad to be here,” in the very same situation; like Miss Celie in The Color Purple when she expressed, “I’m poor, black, I might even be ugly, but dear God, I’m here. I’m here.”

So, I guess the question is, even when we feel like life is throwing dead lizards at us, and nothing’s going our way, are we a Bud or a Dick? I’m asking myself that.


Ramblings on a Sunday…

September 19, 2010

If we are always looking for the worst in others, we will most definitely always find what we are looking for…

We are made in God’s image but we often choose only to see the results of a fallen world in one another. We have the potential to look deep into a person, or maybe not so deep depending on the person, and see God within them; and whether they acknowledge Him or not, or whether we acknowledge the way they choose to acknowledge Him should not bare significance in our findings. Because if we are looking to see good, we will see it. If we are looking to find love within, we will find Him. However, if we are looking to see bad…well, that we will most definitely find it, in anybody and everybody, with no exceptions.

But how great would it be if we could look beyond all the behaviors we don’t like, things we label as “wrong”, the outer appearances, just putting them aside, and we make the decision to look another person in the eyes, peering much deeper of course, into their inner most being, and we greet the God that lives within them, whether they ackowledge Him or not, or whether we agree with the way they choose to acknowledge Him if they do, and we just say, “Hey. What’s up? I like you.”?

That would be cool.

I have seen some strange stuff lately, and by stuff I actually mean people. I realize I am a hypocrite, because this very thing I speak of I cannot do myself, when it comes to some. I do try. For me, it’s easier to see God in the homeless, the gangsters, the materialistically “poor”, and the outcasts of society; mostly because they are real. They often have nothing to loose and they rarely see the need for false pretenses. It’s easy for me to love them. They are humble. They are genuine. They are generous with what little they may have. They are not proud.

Where do I struggle then? I struggle to see God in the self proclaimed “man of God”, who stands at the pulpit bragging of his wealth, his fancy cars…yes plural…his large house in an expensive area. It’s hard for me to see God in him because I do not recognize the God this man speaks of. “How can he drive those cars, or be driven around in them rather, when majority of his congregation will not even eat three meals a day this month?!”, I scoff. But I realize that does not reflect anything on him. It only reflects what a hypocritical wretch I am. Because if I truly believe what I say I believe then I must also look past the bodyguards, through the expensive cars, past the fancy suit, and see the inner most parts of the man I can’t stand to be in the same room with. I have to choose to see God in him.

I have to not listen to his accounts of the God he says he serves, not get caught up staring at the spectacle he has created around him, but rather, I have to make an intentional decision to look into him, not in the way we are accustomed to look, but with a supernatural eyesight. I have to look and find God within him, and as hard as it may be, I have to acknowledge He is there. Because, whether I agree with him or not, whether I like the way he goes on, and the things he does, and the way he treats people, and the way I perceive his representation of God to be “wrong”, I have to take a step back and accept the fact that no one is either all bad or all good. We are just humans, who are made in God’s image. And I have to choose to see God, and not just the human.

Searching for Truth

November 21, 2009

Part of this journey I seem to be on is for me to learn about truth. This theme has come up in both books I am presently reading (Velvet Elvis & The Shack), and indirectly in the many conversations I am having with Anne. In Velvet Elvis Rob Bell writes an entire chapter on Truth, and how Christians have been historically bound and limited to what they believe is truth, but are not able to see it in other things, teachings and people outside of their small spectrum which they consider to be “Christian”. But Bell argues that all truth comes from God and no matter the source, it can be claimed and used in the life of a believer.

I have, for instance, experienced this when listening to Jay Z,  when he says something like, “Fear not when nor fear not why. Fear not much while we’re alive. Life is for living not living uptight. See you somewhere in the sky. Fear not die, I’ll be alive for a million years bye bye.” He may not claim to be speaking the word of God, he may not even claim to believe in God, but there is no denying the truth which is found within those words, and I can claim them and believe them for myself. That does not now mean that everything Jay Z says becomes truth and applicable to my life, and so when he raps, “You know I thug ’em, f%@#! ’em, love ’em, leave ’em, cause I don’t f%@#!in’ need ’em.” I do not have to accept that belief about women as truth for my life.

Rob Bell speaks about how even Paul often quoted prophets of other gods in his letters to certain churches, because he saw truth in what they said, and knew that that very truth spoke to the people (the followers of that god) and it was even familiar to them. That did not mean he had to prescribe to every statement or belief of that particular prophet or god, but he was able to sift through the words, find the truths that stood out and use them in his own life. I like this. Because so often, especially when it comes to religion, we humans use our differences to push each other away, rather than finding similarities that can bring us closer together. We do this with religion, the color of skin, the type of music we like, political views, and pretty much every aspect of life.

It is interesting spending so much time with Anne, because she has lived many more years than I, and she is an extremely wise and deeply spiritual woman. I imagine that many Christians would spend time trying to “convert” Anne, or prove that her beliefs are wrong, or try and show how what she believes does not fall in line with what they believe or claim to know. The interesting thing is, in my short 48 hours in Germany, I have spoken with Anne more about God and spiritual things than I have in the past few months with my Christian friends. And these conversations have not been me trying to convince Anne about what I believe, or her trying to convince me of what she believes, but rather meeting in the middle on certain spiritual truths that we both believe, and not feeling threatened by the differences in beliefs when they do arise. We both believe we live in a natural world with spiritual forces that are active in our lives and an entire unseen spiritual realm which exists, leading, guiding and affecting human interaction and behavior.

Though we may view it in different ways, we both acknowledge that there is much more happening, behind the scenes, than what our mere eyes can see or perceive. And we meet together and agree on this common truth. It is actually so freeing, and so wonderful. So we can speak about being able to see the “light” in certain people, and though we may use different terminology for it, we are really speaking about the same thing. Or we can speak about Jesus and though Anne does not believe He is God and I do we can agree that the life He lived was that of love and activism, Anne also believing that He had more “light” in Him than any other person to ever walk the earth. Or we can speak of Buddha in the same way, and I do not feel the need to follow him, but I can see and believe the truth in many of his life and teachings, especially those regarding the poor.

This all feels so refreshing and I wonder why so many people are scared of these types of interactions. Maybe it is a fear in them to question, maybe it is shaky beliefs of their own, or maybe they are not completely convinced about what they say they believe and therefore rather stick to simple, surface clichés, phrases and conversations; conversations that are safe and do not pose a perceived threat to their belief system. But what amazing interactions we can have with one another when we choose not to try and use our differences to push each other farther apart, but rather look at the good and truth within one another, and use that good, and truth, and similarity to bring us closer. This way seems more right. This way seems more Godly to me. You do not have to accept it as truth for you, but it is a truth that has recently set me free.

originally posted on http://livelovedaily.blogspot.com