Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Build-A-Bear & Human Creation

A few weeks ago, I went to Pawsenclaws & Co. to celebrate my goddaughter's third birthday. For the record, Alexis is one of the two most beautiful little girls I've ever seen. The second being my niece and other goddaughter, Railyn. Just wanted to put that out there. Anyway, Pawsenclaws, the lesser-known predecessor to Build-A-Bear Workshop, is a custom teddy bear factory. As with most things, building a custom teddy bear involves a process. Bear with me, I'm going somewhere, I promise.

First, you go to what's called the Fur Salon to choose the body for your bear or, more accurately, stuffed animal. There are about a hundred choices of various animal types, colors and grades of fur, and overall appearances. Next, you go to the Recording Booth, where you record a message onto a sound chip that is placed inside the bear. So, every time the recipient squeezes the bear, he or she hears your message. For someone like me, who can spend an hour recording and rerecording a voice mail greeting, this can be quite a daunting task.

After that, you choose a heart (a small, color-coded, heart-shaped disk) for your bear. Each color represents a different attribute with which your bear's heart will be filled: love, smiles, joy, bearhugs, laughter, and the like. I can't remember all of the options, but you get the point. The store is geared toward 2- to 8-year-old children, so clearly lust, greed, deceit, and malice aforethought were not among the choices. Finally, you go to the "StuffnVator", where the bear heart and sound chip are inserted and the bear is shot up with polyfil. You can decide how much polyfil to add - less for a softer bear, more for a firmer bear. You hug the bear, squeeze its limbs and test out the sound chip, and then head over to buy it some clothes and learn how forge a birth certificate on a PC. And that’s it, you’re off to the check-out counter.

It occurred to me sometime later, that we were created in much the same way. Each of the million trillion people who have ever lived were custom made, one at a time. God went to the Skin Salon and chose our complexion, mixed and matched each feature, chose our color and grade of hair, and placed moles, pimples, dimples and freckles exactly where he wanted them. Instead of polyfil, he inflated us with his own breath to just the right fullness – some a little fuller than others. God finished us up and sent us off as gifts to the world.

Of course, he didn’t pack us up without the most important parts. Like the bears, we have hearts filled with different attributes. Unlike the bears’, though, our hearts are not colored disks. Our hearts are pieces of God’s own heart, so our hearts could not be filled with anything that is not in God’s heart. So, contrary to what many people like to think, the lust, greed, deceit and malice aforethought were not part of the original recipe. Along with our hearts, we were each given a message recorded in God’s own voice to share with the world: "I love you," "I forgive you," "I see you," "I miss you," "I am with you," "I died for you and you were worth it," etc.

It is for that reason, that he calls us "wonderfully and fearfully made." Mainly, because he made us by hand. And, if we were made by a perfect God who never makes mistakes, how could we be anything but wonderfully and fearfully made.

Naturally, we may have a different concept of perfection than God, and many of us take exception with the complexions, features, hair and level of fullness that God chose, and his placement of the moles, pimples, dimples and freckles. We often work feverishly to hide and change them. There is also the small matter of the things that happened to us once we arrived on Earth. Often, we have a hard time thinking of ourselves as perfect because of the things that we’ve done and/or the things that were done to us.

But, that difference of opinion is just a matter of perspective. Whether or not you feel perfect, God calls you perfect because you’re perfect for the job that he sent you to do. Everything about you, from you hair to your mistakes, makes you perfect to share with the world the heart and the message that he put inside of you. And no matter what you look like or what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, God looks on you with love and pride because what he sees is the heart and what he hears is the message. To him, the heart looks just the way it looked when he created you and the message sounds just the way it sounded when he recorded it.

So, your mission – should you choose to accept it – is two-fold. First, you must look in the mirror and see what God sees. Learn to look past the fur, past the polyfil to the heart. The perfect heart. Learn to hear past your voice and your words to God’s message. And, share that heart and that message with the world. After all, they’re not for you. You’re just the giftwrap.

Secondly, you must learn to do the same for other people. Look at them and see their heart. And every once in a while give them a squeeze and listen to their message. Nothing is sadder than someone who never gets the chance to share their message from God because no one ever squeezed them.

It is only apropos that I end this schmaltz-fest with a quote from a children’s book. Here it is:

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once your are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand..." - The Skin Horse (from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams)

Monday, July 18, 2005

I've looked at clouds from both sides now...

I love to fly.

One of my favorite activities while flying is to look out the window at the tops of the clouds. There are very few places on Earth that have a landscape that rivals that of the average cloud. It looks like a million hills and valleys covered in freshly fallen snow. Then, there's this other-worldly quality to them.

But, before I wax too poetic, let me go on. Thinking about the clouds, brought two things to mind:

The Bible say that man's life is as a vapor. Although the Bible is speaking metaphorically about people, for clouds this is literally the case. Not only are their lives a vapor, they themselves are vapor. They are literally here today and gone tomorrow.

So, if God would put so much painstaking detail into a cloud that is only going to be around for about a day, how much more time and detail must he have put into human beings? Not only are our lifespans, on average, 27,375 times that of a cloud, but we are his masterpieces and made just to hang out with him and make him proud.

Secondly, it's been less than a hundred years that anyone or anything has ever seen the top of a cloud. Birds can't fly that high and neither could the earliest planes. So, God did all that work on something that wouldn't be seen, couldn't be seen, for millions of years. Which just goes to show you that God is God even when no one's looking.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What Things?

"What then shall we say to these things?"

What things?

Fear. Guilt. Pain. Loss. Hate. Haters. Laziness. Sickness. Brokeness. Broke-ness. Depression. Insecurities. Impatience. Heartache. Heartbreak. Procrastination. Self-doubt. Vicious cycles. Backstabbing friends. Frontstabbing enemies. All of the stuff you want to do, but know you shouldn't. All of the distractions that keep you from reaching your dreams. All of the judgmental people looking down their noses at you. All of the stuff that you fill your life with to keep from experiencing pain, rejection, failure, hope, love and life.

Those things.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31