Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Pair of Forty-Fives

What does it mean to pursue a goal and to be successful? Let me backtrack 15 years. It was 1991 and I was a junior in high school. I was deemed "husky" as a kid, but it was all flab, and no beef so to speak. I decided to take a weight training class as my elective that year, expecting to get in shape. It didn't quite work out that way. I felt the humiliation of being the weakest kid in the class. I had to put five pound and eventually ten pound plates on the forty-five pound barbells for bench pressing. All this while the jocks and cavemen who comprised the rest of my class easily slapped on twenty-five, thirty-five, and even forty-five pound plates. In college, I was eventually able to make it to twenty-fives, but every time I entered a gym, I could see the forty-five pound plates taunting me. They reminded me of my unsuccessful attempts at consistently working out. They spoke of me never reaching my potential. They laughed at me while the sands of time continued to drain away, making my fitness goals harder and harder to reach with each passing year.

Now usually is the time for me to segue into a spiritual discussion about the evils of comparing ourselves to others, and finding worth in the eyes of people who really don't care about us to begin with. My measure as a man cannot be laid on a scale, or printed on the side of a plate. To be honest with you, I don't have a clue what the average thirty-ish guy can bench. All I know is that for most of my life I have been sedentary and not committed to taking care of this earth-suit that is (for the time being) spliced to my soul and spirit. Since those days in high school, deep down, I wanted to prove to myself that I could get in shape, that I could be stronger. That I could bench a barbell laden with a brace of forty-five pound plates.

This morning, I warmed up at the gym and surprised myself when I decided to shoot for it. I pulled the plates from their moorings and fastened them to a waiting barbell. As I stared at the plates, the radio began playing Jefferson Starship's "We Built This City" (the #1 Most Awesomely Bad Song Ever). I laid back, gripped the cold steel and hoisted the mass of steel up. I was not accustomed to seeing so much of my peripheral vision cut off, and I paused. I slowly lowered the bar to my chest and pushed it upwards. I did it! I proceeded to take nine more repetitions before allowing the bar to rest back on the weathered pegs over my head. There was no fanfare or applause in the gym. Just me, the bench, and the forty-fives.

For the first time in fifteen years, they were silent.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Where Two or Three are Gathered

What is a church? Is it a building on a hill with a cross stuck on top? Is it a crowd that fills an auditorium? I think we misuse the word "church" far too often. In a nutshell, I believe church is about the people of God doing His thing. Why do we complicate it so much? One scripture that speaks of the church is Matthew 18:19-20.

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

This passage has often caused me to scratch my head. I believe that God is everywhere (especially in places where we think He isn't). What is Jesus talking about? One of my professors at seminary described God as having an inter-relationship with Himself. Father, Son and Holy Spirit being three personalities of one God. They are one in relationship with each other. So then, the person(ality) of God is found in relationships.

If this be the case, when I am in relationship with a brother (hanging out, eating, sharing life, etc.) is that a reflection of God?

Or, to put it another way, do people see Jesus when they see us together?

And if that is the case, what IS church really about?