Friday, June 27, 2014

Doing what you love.

don't have the luxury of explaining what I do for a living in a few words. Sometimes I am very envious of people who can say "I am a teacher", "I am a doctor", "I am a nurse", "I am a tax accountant" (okay, I am not envious of that one.)... I remember once my mother-in-law overheard me tell someone I am a Merch guy (speaking specifically about a series of events I do work for) and she excitedly asked me: "so that is what you do? You are a Merch guy - I can tell people that Luke is a Merch guy?"  That is the first time I realized that I frustrate those who want to be proud of me. I can only imagine the utter fear my mom has when people ask her "so, what does your son do for a living?" I am sure she scrambles knowing that I do stuff, but not sure how to explain it. I want to apologize - it isn't fair to all of you who love me and want to brag about how awesome and successful I am. 

I think my wife has figured it out though - after years of trying to explain I am pretty sure she has just resigned herself to answering the question: "what does your husband do for a living?" with "whatever he wants - I guess." Most of me wants to fix the problem, I want those who love me to be able to define me professionally a little bit easier. It isn't fair that they have this amazing person in their life and they have a hard time defining them in just a few words. So here it is - this is what I do for a living: 

I am joking - I can't really define it like that. Rest assured though, I do what I love. I can't think of anything more miserable than doing something I hate for most of the day so that I can then, completely worn out, do something I love. I am not interested in just working for the weekend (which is kinda funny, since I generally work on weekends). I don't have an aversion to work, I like to work - I am just not convinced that you have to hate your work. 

Work consumes a good portion of life - is it worth it to hate something that consumes that much of your time? Let's say you work 50 hours a week and sleep 50 hours a week. That is 100 of your 168 hours. Add to this driving to and from work, eating meals (to stay alive) getting yourself ready in the morning and preparing for bed at night - that is going to be another 22 hours. Do you go to church every Sunday - you are looking at a normal 3 hours of time to make that happen (4 hours if you are super spiritual). So now we are at 43 hours of life to enjoy and we haven't even talked about kids. Hopefully you love your kids and spending time with them and for them, but kids dirty dishes and laundry and have practice and recitals. They burn time. If you have 2 kids, 43 hours burns quickly, so quickly that you probably feel you are coming short of what you need. There is no time to capture what you love - life becomes all work and family obligations. Please don't hear me wrong - I do love my family; they are my favorite thing. I am not talking about spending time with your spouse and kids as something you don't love - but so often the only time we have to spend is spent on the obligations that support the life of the family. There is no time for enjoying family. 

So what is the answer? It is simple - do what you love. The answer is simple, putting it in motion is another story, but we can start small. Here are some ideas:

 - include your kids in the "work" of family. Let them drag a bag of garbage outside with you. Let your kids rinse the dishes while you are loading the dishwasher. Kids are pretty good at matching socks - celebrate every match! Do the work with your spouse - doing things together is always better than apart. 

 - Find a hobby you enjoy that makes money. My wife makes cards (and sells materials), hangs out with girlfriends (and sells them bags) and she loves couponing and hunting for grocery deals. I like building things (so I sell them). Monetizing a hobby lets you do what you love and offset the need to do what you hate. 

 - Reevaluate what standard of living you require. If eating out moves from a standard to a special activity you will save money and time. When you look at available time, maybe canceling your satellite TV or cable makes a lot of sense - is that really what you want to be spending your precious time on anyway? Great Value makes some good products. Is that quality coffee worth the time you spent to get it? How nice of clothing do you want and is it worth the time you are spending to afford it? What are you driving and is it worth the time you spend? Let's start evaluating the cost of things not in dollars, but the amount of time is costs to afford it. Time is scarce and finite. 
The path to doing what you love is not short and it will probably force you to reevaluate what you love. I know I am still heading that direction - I love interacting with people, being home, building things, making spreadsheets and counting shirts. I hope that every week I am moving closer to those things and farther away from the things I hate. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day.

Andrew told me last week: "I am ready to start working with you Dad, but I need you to teach me to count by twelves."  I have a hard time disputing that this is really one of the most necessary skills with some of the work I do. This exchange helped me to look again at my role as a father. In a society that no longer passes on trades and professions from one generation to the next, how will I prepare my son? It isn't a given that Andrew is going to grow up and do the work I do. However, Andrew is going to grow up and it is likely that he will become the man I am. The truth is that if I want Andrew to grow up and be like me at work I have to teach him how to count by twelves - but more importantly, if I want Andrew to grow up to be the man I am (or better) I need to teach him what I know about this too. 

Chances are good Andrew isn't going to grow up and do merchandise work selling t-shirts, maybe though. There is a great chance that he will grow up, be married, have kids, interact with people who have needs, have in-laws, face hard times, experience abundance, question his faith, and a slew of other normal things am American man faces. Andrew said it best, "I need you to teach me". As a father I need to teach my son how to be, if I don't - society will. I do this mostly by modeling behavior. 

Television has done a great job of devaluing the role of father. Fathers like Al Bundy and Ray Ramono have shown us how dads are the butt of the joke and fail as leaders in their household. I know that these shows are funny. I laugh at them all the time, but if this was real life - I would cry knowing that this is the model these kids have to grow up with. Television has given us some good dads too. Cliff Huxtable, Mike Brady and Andy Taylor - what wonderful pictures of fathers fathering.

Dads, if we don't step up and father - the television will. The truth is that most fathers are not like the negative ones on television. Most fathers don't come home from work, kick back the recliner and drink a sixer till they fall asleep only to wake up and make negative sarcastic remarks at their wife and kids. Most fathers aren't doing overtly negative things, but are we doing overtly positive things?

My wife would agree; the best thing God did in my life was give me Andrew. Andrew changed the whole game for me. Becoming a father shaped me in a way that nothing else has or could have. Andrew helped make me a better husband; a better man. On Father's Day I always find myself remembering and comparing who I was before fatherhood to who I have become through it. I am so thankful that God did this. I love being a father because I know the value it has added to my life. The change in me was truly unbelievable. 

Although I have been blessed through this, my job now is to pass on this blessing to my kids. I need to teach them how to be, what to be, where to be, why they should be, and even who to be. I feel like I have the responsibility to train my kids up in the way I want them to go. I want Andrew to love his wife, understand the value of work, enjoy work, give to those that are in need, make known the love of God through Jesus. I want him to do the right thing, always tell the truth and love people. This is the way I want him to go - so now I need to work a plan to train him in it. 

Happy Father's Day and good luck!

What is the way you want your kids to go?
Are there trades or skills you could pass on to your children?
What aspects of faith and spirituality do you want your kids to embrace?

Friday, May 30, 2014

The value of a thing.

Things, in general, have value to me. Whether I have a use for an item or not, I normally can find someone else who does have a use for it and can sell it or gift it. My eyes were opened to the value of things when I got married. Kelly comes from a junk yard family. Her grandfather and father both have owned and operated a junk yard for her entire life. Kelly grew up with a nurtured sense that things, no matter how tattered and worn, have value to someone - and so they had value to her. I can't imagine that this guiding principle was intentionally passed to her, but it was passed. Kelly finds value in everything. A scrap of ribbon, a repurposed paper clip, and even old sour cream containers. It doesn't seem to matter what the intended use or life-expectancy of the item was, Kelly sees value in it. 

The value of a thing is interesting and a lot of times value is distinguished by the consumer of it. Rarely does a creator of an item get to set value for the item. The value of an item is almost always determined by those who choose to purchase and use the item. For Kelly, when she buys sour cream, she is buying a product out family uses a lot plus a container she will continue to use over and over. The value of this item is probably higher to her than it is to those who simply throw away the container after use. Consumers set pricing based on what the market will allow. This gives us a value for the item we are evaluating. 

By this point you are probably trying to figure out what I am getting at. This idea of valuing is not foreign to anyone who lives and works in the United States. However, when we evaluate people we need to be careful not to use our free market economic principles. As a Christian I believe people are valued because God has given them value. In this instance an item (a person) is given a value by its creator, not by its consumer. A person is not something that the creator has put up for sale, it is priceless because it can not be bought. Much like my wedding band - it doesn't matter how high the offer gets, it isn't for sale. The creator isn't selling. 

Does this change things for you? God considers you priceless; he also says I should consider you priceless. Since I am generally in the business of living how God instructs - I do think you are priceless. You have such great value that it is futile to try and put a number or a degree on it. 

Do you have anything that is priceless? I actually do; my son is priceless (daughter too... But let's just talk about Andrew). There is nothing I could be given in trade for Andrew. I don't ever want to let him go - and I would gladly fight anyone who tried to take him to my own death. I think about Andrew constantly, whether I am wondering what he would think about a place that I am working in or if I am just looking at a menu and find myself choosing what he would eat (even when he is not there) - I am obsessed with Andrew. I am obsessed because he is of huge value to me. Things that are of huge value cause us to obsess over them. This is the relationship God has with us. He is obsessed with his priceless creation - you (and me)!

I just don't live like I am loved by God like this. Do you? 
How does should this change my life? Should it?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why go to church?

I travel a lot, most of it on weekends, so I miss Sunday morning service with my family often. There was a time when I only made it to church about 6-8 weeks a year. This is what I like to call "the miserable years". There was a time in my life I wondered if a local church was even something that was needed. It was common for me to question whether the organized church was a mistake for Christianity; maybe church wasn't supposed to be so organized? Because of this I stopped making it a priority to be involved with a local church and instead leaned on the idea that "church" was simply all Christians I came into contact with. This seemed ideal as it removed a bunch of obligation from me and allowed me to live by a schedule I determined. The problem is that I didn't realize what I was saying goodbye to. I said goodbye to the local church, but I also said goodbye to accountability. 

The organized church provides such a safety for the Christian. It "dummy checks" a person's faith to maintain a minimum that keeps a Christ follower, following. People might be offended by my qualifying the church as "the minimum", but it is. It isn't a minimum requirement for salvation; please don't think I am submitting that. It is a minimum if you want to be in a growing relationship. I am a firm believer that if you lack a relationship with the local church you lack the fundamental element to a growing relationship with Christ. You are a baseball player without a team, a swimmer without a coach, an employee without an employer, you are a non union stage hand at a union house. It isn't going to work - you can try and pretend, you will fail to grow closer to Christ. Christ hangs out with his wife - if you refuse to hang out with his wife, you won't be hanging out with him. 

It all changed for me when I reached the bottom and I had no one to pull me out. I had no real relationship with the church and when I was in need I looked around and had no one. When you reach this place it is easy to live a sinful lifestyle because there is no shame and there is no guilt. I was lost like I had never been lost before. I had Christ, but I had no relationship with his family. I was the lost son that took half the truth my Father had and ran into the world thinking I could do it better on my own. It would have gotten worse and worse, but I loved my wife and the evidence I refused to see in my own life I saw in Kelly. It made me hurt and a change had to happen. We decided to attach ourselves to the church Kelly grew up in and the church we were married in. The result was a new love for "the minimum". We checked in on Sunday mornings (and I hit Sunday nights when I could). I sat under the teaching of scripture regularly and the change in my life was remarkable.

I go to church because I need to be taught, I need to have accountability, I need to be in a place that will help me feel guilty and full of shame if I am living in sin. It makes my life better - it makes my relationship with Christ closer when I am okay with hanging out with His wife. It is coming back home to my father's house and giving up the pigsty. I need the better life that the local church offers. 

To my friends that are doing their faith on their own and not a part of a local church. They are judgmental, they are inclusive, they do call sinners out, they take our money and spend it on useless things, they act like they are better than us and then hypocritically do as we did. They are messed up and broken people who are often too full of pride to admit it. In short, they are just like you and you should be friends. 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day blog.

It is Mother's Day. I don't have a lot of over-the-top respect for moms in general, but I do for my mom, and her mom. I have respect for my wife  (who is terrific) and her mom as well. I wouldn't say that all moms deserve to be celebrated. Simply getting pregnant doesn't automatically put you in a class of people like my mother. She is phenomenal and if you think you can mother as good as her, that is a great goal but a hard one to reach. If you think you can love your kids like my wife loves our kids I would bet against that - Kelly is amazing. 

This is what the day is for; not to blindly honor child bearing women but instead to honor the mothers in your life that have made a profound impact, both with you and your kids. Getting pregnant doesn't make you a good mom worthy of my praise. Giving birth doesn't make you a good mom worthy of my praise. Feeding a child doesn't make you a good mom worthy of my praise. However, being the woman who sat me down and said "always remember if no one else loves you; God and I do - no matter what!" Being the woman who made me a turkey sandwich in the middle of the night, being the woman who gave to me when she didn't have for herself, being the woman who came to my marching band competitions and drove me and my drums all over Minnesota - that gets you my praise! Loving me when it seemed no one else did, holding me when I was hurting physically and emotionally, loving me enough to teach me how to be an adult - that is the mother I respect and love and praise on Mother's Day! Susan Cheryl Buchanan is my mom, raised by a great mom herself - I am so blessed to have been given to her by God. 

There is another mother that has loved me deeper than any other. There is an age old question about whether you love your spouse or kids more. I think it is a ridiculous question and generally not worthy of an answer because how can you "love more" anyway. You either love or you don't. I will say, I love my kids but what moves me more than their beautiful lives is that there is a woman that, with me, dedicated herself to loving my kids! Better than the fact that we love our kids together is that her love for my kids is not dependent on me in anyway. Regardless of how she feels about me, regardless of whether I screw up or come up short - she loves my kids! The best way to love me is to love those that I love. Given the ridiculous question "would you choose to save your husband or your child if you could save just one?" Kelly would pick our children because she loves me and she knows her love for them is the best way to love me. I am blessed to have been given Kelly as a wife - the best mother our children could ever have known!

How are we? As the bride of Christ; do we love those who God loves because he loves them? What kind of mother am I to a lost child of God in need of kindness, care and love?

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms - I dare you to love your kids like these two women have loved me and mine!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Dumpster diving in East Nashville.

"Honey, could I ask you to do something for me?" These are dangerous words which are often spoken by my wife. I can't say "no you can't ask me to do something" because then I am not even entertaining the request, but if I say "absolutely" then there will always be that blurred line of whether I simply agreed to be asked to do something or if I actually agreed to do whatever she was going to request. I believe this is a trick that many wives know and use. Men need to be more aware of this smooth way to manipulate, not that we can do anything about it - but I think knowing that you are being manipulated is better than not knowing. 

When I have an opportunity to spend the day with my wife, I generally jump at it. It is rare that we are able to run around together without the kids. It feels good to be a couple doing what couples do. Kelly came with me to work (dropping things off and picking things up) this week and it was great to have her with me. We added in a lunch with new friends and it shaped up to be a great day. I will say though, it could have easily been a forgotten day but then Kelly got that look in her eye (not that look... Unfortunately). As we passed a dumpster I saw her eye catch some furniture that had been thrown out. I knew immediately "the ask" was coming. I made a comment about what great chairs they were, internally dreading that Kelly would want to take home these six chairs. In the time she took to say, "I wonder why anyone would throw those out", I realized I was being given a chance to turn what would normally be a nice, but forgettable, day into a happy memory that we could share. Hopping on top of the dumpster I dropped in warning Kelly that I may emerge with a disease. The look on Kelly's face sealed the deal - this would be a happy day remembered because I went dumpster diving in Eaat Nashville for her without being asked. 

Sometimes we need to do the work required to write a story into our lives that is filled with happy memorable moments. Too often we settle for "okay" and "forgettable" in our lives because "memorable" just seems like too much work. When we think about our family we need to be intentional in creating memorable moments that we can hold onto as we grow. Hard, bad, torturous, arguing, crying, sad days will come - it is these memorable moments that will remain and help us to hold on. Unforgettable, happy moments are more times than not, intentional. Whether planned far in advance or not - we remember when we make an intentional decision to experience something. I hope I will always be willing to jump into a dumpster, travel with the kids to Kelly's work, and buy a car on eBay half a country away. These are the things that become unforgettable because the work developed a happy memory we don't want to forget. 

What can you do to make intentional memorable moments:
Coach your child's ball team?
Plant a garden with your wife?
Road trip with your husband to your favorite team's away game?
Volunteer as a chaperone for your child's field trip?
Work the overtime and buy your wife those tickets to Las Vegas? 
Initiate a dumpster dive for 6 bright orange chairs?

Friday, May 02, 2014

A bigger family.

When I was 2 years old my parents packed my sister and me and we trekked to Minnesota. This move was prompted by a job transfer for my dad that had the promise of a better life for us. I was born in Detroit Michigan and we were surrounded by family there. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents... there was no shortage of people who loved me simply because I was born into their family. This move changed that. 

In Minnesota we were isolated - a little family in a strange place with no support system other than each other. I was young, it became normal to me to trust a small amount of people and consider family a small unit that had a connection (but not a strong one) to a larger group of people. These are people we would update on our life, but they weren't a part of it. We visited this larger group of people, we didn't do life with them. Family was also something you grew out of. Family was something you distanced yourself from as you got older and started a new one. With these understandings of family, this is just what I did. For better or worse, my understanding of family was small and finite. 

I can't help but think this definition of family has influenced my view of the "family of God". Whether I ever verbalize it, in my heart I have always imagined the body of Christ as something small. It isn't small though, it is quite large (and diverse). My work allows me to interact with this large family and it has challenged my views of how I should be interacting with it. When I first started traveling and working with other local churches I always viewed myself as a visitor, an outsider, hired help - but am I? This is how I have viewed those who visit our local church - heck, we even refer to them as visitors, but are they? Can you "visit" family? Isn't the nature of family that you are included and a part of what they are doing?

On a recent trip I had the pleasure of being with family I had never met before. These were people who are making Christ known in this world and I was humbled by how they accepted me into their work with them. They treated me like family, and it has forever adjusted how I view the "family" of Christ. Family doesn't always agree, they don't always do things the same way, many times the differences they have can add awkwardness to the relationship - but family does support each other and encourage each other. Also, no matter the differences, we come from the same line. Despite our differences there are an overwhelming amount of similarities. We all share in the abundant and unending love of God and the desire to share that with others

Where do you draw the line on family? 
When does family end and friendship begin?
How do you change from simply informing family about your life to actually including family in your life?