Monday, February 27, 2006

Build-A-Bear & Human Creation (REPOST)

A few weeks ago, I went to Pawsenclaws & Co. to celebrate the third birthday of my beautiful goddaughter, Alexis. Pawsenclaws is a custom teddy bear factory and the lesser-known predecessor to Build-A-Bear Workshop. As with most things, building a custom teddy bear involves a process.

Your first stop is what's called the Fur Salon where you choose the body for your bear or stuffed animal. There are about a hundred choices of animal types, colors and grades of fur, and overall appearances. Next, you go to the Recording Booth to record a message onto a sound chip that’s 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 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 or more for a firmer bear. You hug the bear, squeeze its limbs, test out the sound chip, then head over to buy it some clothes. You learn how forge a birth certificate on a PC and 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)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Type-A Existentialism

I have a new homework assignment from God: being still. Well actually, that’s two homework assignments. First, being. Then, being still.

There’s been a lot of discussion tossed around lately, inside and outside of my head, about a “doing” focus or performance orientation. These discussions have hit home because I have a doing focus in a number of areas in my life. My relationships, including my relationship with God, is one of them. So, as I look at verses like Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” – I think, I can do that. I look at my schedule and mark out a block of time. What usually happens is I sit and I spend the majority of the appointed period thinking about how to (in the words of a friend) do stillness. Then because I am the King of All Things Tangential, I get distracted and have to work my way from wherever the tangent led back to my place of stillness.

Apparently, when God said “BE still” he actually meant “be” and not “do.” Who knew? So, now I’m stuck. Me and Being are not really acquainted, which makes being anything tough. Add to that my doing problem and being still looks a little like trying to feed a camel through the eye of a needle. As Jesus said after using the same analogy in Mark 10, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.” I’m not sure how he’s going to do it, but I know he will. Until then, I’ll be here. Or at least I’ll do here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I am the weakest link...Goodbye.

I love my friends, and yes I love Jesus, but I don't do chain letters for anybody. I especially avoid Christian chain letters, because so many of them end with a guilt trip and call into question the salvation and committment of all who even consider breaking the chain. Say it with me: "WITCHCRAFT." So, anyway, I always break the chains - just like Jesus - and somehow I'm still saved. Jaded, but saved.

I say that because there is apparently a getting-to-know-you blog post template sweeping through cyberspace and it landed in my lap. Unfortunately my jading has hardened my heart even to well-intentioned, threat-free (and, I'll admit it, down-right entertaining) fare such as this. Had I not been "tagged" by one of my favorite people and one of the most inspired and influential ministers in all of Christendom, Heather Zempel, I would have ignored it altogether. However, in deference to Heather, I will answer the questions. I won't tag anyone else, though.

By the way, anyone who copies this template from my blog to post in theirs is probably not a real Christian.

Four Jobs I've Had:
- Wedding Coordinator (including a wedding of a girl I dated)
- Fruit Basket Maker at Kroger
- Trash Collector at outdoor concert venue (I found so much money it was almost worth it)
- Metal Press Worker at a machine parts die cast factory

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:
- Drive Me Crazy (say what you will, I love that movie)
- Hav Plenty
- Independence Day
- Money Pit

Four Places I've Lived:
- Columbus, OH
- Gambier, OH
- Washington, DC
- That’s all

Four Shows I Like to Watch:
- 7th Heaven
- Grey's Anatomy
- Veronica Mars
- Family Guy

Four Foods That I Like:
- Pizza
- Drunken Noodle
- Any Bread
- Grilled Stuft Burritos

Four Websites I Visit Daily:
- Silas Partners Webmail
- Securenet
- Blogspot

Four Things I Want to Do Before I Die:
- Get married
- Have/adopt children
- Travel extensively
- See the sky crack

Four People I'm Tagging:
* see intro

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Letter B

Along with my writing class, I'm taking another class called Living Waters. This one is geared toward cleaning up all of the messes that we find ourselves in pertaining to sexuality and relationships. It's about learning to love yourself and others better by learning to love God first and best. For one of our homework assignments, I had to write three letters: one to my father, one to my mother, and one from God to me. Here's the letter from God to me. It kind of reads like an answer to my Digging Up The Past posting.


Your memory is a gift like every other gift I’ve given you. Even as your memories fade and shift with every new bit of insight and revelation, understand that their value never fades. I used your past to shape you and mold you into the man that you are now. Your memories, good and bad, are the record of that process. They are the scrapbook of our journey together. But, always keep the past in its proper perspective and place. Always remember that your past may help to determine your options, but you and you alone are responsible for which of them you’ll choose.

I love you, Child. Know that I’ve seen the man you were, I’ve seen the man you are, and I’ve seen the man you’ll become. I love them all.

I love you,
Your God and Father