Dec
20

What if God wrestled The Rock instead of Jacob?

Yes, I stood in line starting at 5AM in Puyallup, Washington to get tickets to see The Rock perform at WWE Monday Night Raw in 1999.  No, I did not make a poster board sign.  Yes, I did dress up in a costume…or what I thought was a costume…before I arrived.  No, I did not stand out in the least bit.  It seems that there is a fine line between monster truck racing and WWE Wrestling clientele.  The latter certainly have a more disciplined fan base.  The reason for my commitment was simple.  My roommates and I…these are my pre-married days…loved to watch pro-wrestling.  I mean, we loved it.  We had our favorites.  My roommates were both former high school football players and certainly knew how to holler!

Upon attending the raucous, my spirits were dashed a bit.  You are not going to believe this, but I don’t think that they are really wrestling?!?  It was funny, actually.  My friends and I had way more fun watching other people than we did watching….um…the show.

The Rock came into the Tacoma Dome toward the end of the performance, danced around, got the crowd into a frenzy and then yelled into the microphone, “…know your role and shut your mouth!”  To which the crowd screamed with approval.  I laughed quite loud at the sheer irony of the moment.

I love this line.  I love it because it sounds like something Jesus would have said.  There are so many times when we are called to obedience and we let it terrify us.  We think obedience is cowardice or blind surrender.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Look at St. Joseph…his step son and wife were perfect.  How was leading grace at the dinner table for that guy?  How do you think he felt about being a provider to those two?  How much do you think he wanted to run ahead to Bethlehem and secure a room knowing they would be taken and his pregnant wife would be sleeping in a cave?  Have you ever tried to go camping with a woman that is nine months pregnant?  Do you have a death wish?  Sorry, I digress.

Joseph obeyed.  In the face of social failure and ridicule he married a pregnant teenager.  He fled to a foreign land and established a household to form the adolescent Son of Man because God asked him to.  How many of us can say we would do the same?

Jesus wants our love and obedience.  He knows what we are going to say before we say it.  He knows are hearts.  If you are having a hard time knowing your role, take time for silence.  If your are living a life of defiance, submit to his will. If you need to wrestle with him this holiday season, go for it. He is the creator of the universe.  I’m pretty sure he can handle you.  He did nickname James and John “The Thunder Boys.”  Who knows, maybe they went a couple of rounds?

Dec
19

How to impress girls by becoming unconscious.

In high school I did speech and debate.  This was a huge thing in Spokane, Washington where I grew up.  Our speech team had over 50 people and was coached by one of the nation’s best.  Across town at one of the rival schools was a girl named Abby.  Oh my goodness.  She was beautiful.  Shoulder length curly hair, deep brown eyes and hypnotic hips.  It was all I could do to be around her in my adolescents. I used to go to speech tournaments and “accidentally” bump into her as much as possible.  Of course if we were competing against each other I would try to crush her then respond sympathetic so as to appear sensitive, you know, high school.  This was before sensitive vampires wooed teenage women.  No glitter was necessary to put on the moves.

One of the largest tournaments per year was held at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wa.  This competition was a big deal and I usually fared pretty well.  When I was a Sophomore  I decided to make my move on Abby at this particular gathering.  I traditionally did not have a problem being around girls, but this particular one threw me for a loop.  She and I went for a walk and found ourselves in a field house at PLU.  Near one of the side entrances to this gigantic practice facility was a huge climbing rope hanging from the ceiling.

Being an avid pursuer of fun, I decided to run and grab the rope and swing as long and far as I could.  The rope spun as I grabbed it but I hung on in desperate attempt to impress Abby and preserve my pulse.  Abby giggled.  It worked.  I would land and she would be so impressed with my antics that she would throw herself into my arms and invite me to be hers forever, or at least until the next speech tournament. Or not. Gaining confidence as the rope swung back toward her I whipped my legs underneath me and held myself upside down.  Little did I know that the sudden movement would spin the rope and alter my course.  I was now heading directly towards a set of folded up bleachers.  I turned to brace for impact but it was to late.  Abby whispered, “watch out” in a low seductive tone, as if to say, “I’m concerned for your safety but not enough to startle you into action as I am actually interested in watching whatever is about to happen.” Or, so I thought at the time.  I smashed into the bleachers and knocked my self out.  I was literally unconscious.

Awaking to her giggles and then her being embarrassed to be around me, I stood up quickly.  My sudden movement made me want to pass out again, but I held my ground.  “We should go,” she said in the same low tone.  “Yeah, okay, um…wanna go out?” I said.  I know what you are thinking, excellent timing!  She sort of curled up her lips and rolled her eyes.  Wait for it.  Here it comes.  “I just want to be friends…” Pure adolescent heartbreak in action.

I learned a lot about girls and the foundation of relationships that day.  First, don’t smear your face on steel bleachers in an attempt to impress a member of the opposite sex.  It is not a firm beginning of a relationship and it is hard on your face.  Second, be yourself.  Be real.  I remember getting so wound up about trying to be somebody else to impress, intimidate, sometimes dominate others in my adolescence. What nonsense.

Abby and I never dated.  Come to think of it, we never really talked again. My speech and debate career kind of took off and helped get into college.  God had a plan.  When that plan includes minor head trauma, my advice to you is to just roll with it as best you can.  Somethings are made to be…and somethings are just not made to be swung on upside down.

Dec
18

A man in a dress

My dress at my wedding cost twice as much as my wife’s.  Let me explain.  I wore a kilt.  I chose to wear the tarten of Edinburg county.  I looked pretty good.  I had the kilt, the sporran (a leather pouch hung around my waste decorated in goat hair…I know right?), the Prince Charlie Jacket and the tights.  Not gonna lie, I rocked the thing. Tooke is not a clan.  The Tookes, also sharing their name with Hobbits, are a part of the Adamson clan found in the northeastern shores of Scotland.  After talking my wife, fiance at the time, into the idea of wearing traditional Scottish garb on our wedding day, it seems their was a tailor strike and the cost of tarten tripled.  Being a youth minister, not exactly rolling in dough, this put a damper on my plans.  My mother was so excited about the idea of the kilt, she helped with the cost and we made it happen.  But, why do it?

Yes, I wanted to paint my face blue and come running up to the altar yelling “freedom!” during the opening song of my wedding ceremony.  No, my wife did not allow it.  Yes, I thought it would look cool and make for good photos.  No, I did not out dress my wife. She wore the most beautiful medieval looking wedding dress I have ever seen.  Yes, I had the groomsmen in tarten theme ties and vests and the priest wore a stole made of the same fabric.  No, it didn’t change the fact that the greatest memory of the day was our new found union in sacrament.

I wanted to wear a kilt at my wedding because I had done a bit of research into my family history.  My mother’s maiden name is Condon.  A staunch Irish Catholic inheritance, I learned of its origins. The name comes from northern Cork county.  It is its own clan and the motto of the shield is “In God is my Hope.”  The Adamson clan’s shield and motto reads, “The Cross gives me welcome rest.”  This history shook me up.

I have always considered myself a man of faith.  I had my teenage struggles and adolescent shake ups, but I have persevered.  To learn that my heritage had been rooted in the deep seeded life of belief challenged me.  At my core and in my blood is a lineage of faith filled people.  It is a history of sacrament.  Men and woman in my family paraded their faith publicly as prolific statements of their identity.  They were proud of it.  They were identified with it. Hope and the Cross are necessary parts of who I am and who I am called to be as a man.  I wanted to bring this to the altar.

I  loved everything about getting married.  It truly was the greatest day.  More so, I love the challenge of faith seeded in my wife and I on our day of sacramental union.  Families came together.  New family was established.  For me, this is what the challenge of the life of faith should be all about.  And, I got one heck of a fancy dress out of the deal!

Dec
14

My Rhododendron Temple

I attended All Saints Elementary School.  We had the olive green uniforms and recess on an asphalt parking lot. All of the teachers were soon to be beatified women and the principle was a stern but kind-hearted nun.  Eight o’ clock every morning was Mass, followed by a morning prayer and the usual pursuits of academic achievement.  School actually started at eight-forty-five.  It is funny when you look back on the experience of going to daily mass for the first five years of your young adolescent life.  I am sure that I misbehaved a number of times.  But I am also certain that the daily sight of lit candles, the beauty of a decorated altar, the smell of old oak pews and the statues of saints long dead wrote a script on my heart.  I never like being there.  I also never insisted that I not be there.  It was a weird mix of emotion.  The priest had a really thick polish accent; the kind that sounds like a lot of chaa’s and shir’s with a vowel thrown in every so often.  I went because my mom said I had to.  I believed because it was what I had been told to do.  I rose for the Nicene Creed and I sat for the Homily.  I knelt for the consecration and I held hands for the Our Father.  To a non-believer this may all seem like the behavior of a Pavlovian Dog.  To a fellow Catholic, however, it is a celebration of the universal faith.   Us Catholics are a bit of a psychological experiment in and of ourselves, my generation in particular.

One day, I remember walking into my fourth grade classroom and hanging up my coat.  The other four students (in my class of twenty-eight) that attended Mass daily had already left to find their seat in the “assigned” pew.  I was alone.  I was not accountable to anybody.  Sr. Claude, the principal had already left the building.  Mrs. Cutler, my teacher was somehow absent from the room.  I suddenly became overtaken by the idea to avoid the day’s liturgy at all cost.  Perhaps I could hide in the closet?  No good, other students would arrive and question my sanity.  Perhaps I could make a run for the bathroom?  It worked in Montessori like a charm, why not here?  I quickly surmised, for one, it is a half of an hour in a school bathroom and for two; it is a half of an hour in a school bathroom.  Gross.  I walked outside the school still unnoticed by any teachers or that sneaky janitor Mrs. Bostwick only to behold the makings of a plan.

On the side of the church were a number of gigantic rhododendrons.  If you have never seen one of these Pacific Northwest plants, you really are missing out.  They provide glorious budding flowers in the spring and rich green leaves year around.  Most importantly they are very sturdy and thick.  I don’t know where the idea came from, and to this day, I don’t know what possessed me to choose this particular course of action.  As the bells began to ring, signaling the beginning of the morning liturgy, I climbed inside of this woody skeletal plant.  Did I mention that they are sturdy?  This thing was huge and thick with foliage.  I found a branch strong enough to hold me and nestled in like an owl at daybreak.

You might guess that it was pretty boring in my anti-liturgical hideaway.  I vividly remember the guilt of missing Mass, but more importantly I remember as a fourth grade boy actually asking myself, “What am I doing here?”  What could possibly be happening inside that is so awful that I am willing to soak my corduroy pants from the dripping leaves of this rainy bush.  Why on earth am I so determined to not sing, “Here I am Lord” and stare at Mother Mary in her usual pose of squishing a snake and holding her Son?  What am I afraid of?  Fear was a new emotion for me when it came to Church.

Now that I look back, I think that I was afraid of the truth that was revealed on the altar.  I never wanted to take refuge in God. I just like to challenge Him. At the time I probably thought is was an innovative way to rebel and maybe get caught up on some Botany homework.  I didn’t want everything that I had been raised to believe in to actually be truth.  I wanted His words to fail.  I think that as I approached the years in life when I thought my parents became idiots and the universe revolved around me, I wanted to believe that my faith would fade like my brothers hand-me-down clothes.  I wanted God to go away because he was in charge and I didn’t like authority. I saw no need for His shield.  Clearly this is a theme in my life.  Authority or authorship is a part of faith that very few people accept without a conflict at some point.  How many Christians do you know that have always accepted God as ruler in their life and have never questioned His judgment, His plan, and/or His methods?  If someone blindly follows His word, then they never internalize His love.  If somebody constantly challenges His will, then they can never know His protection.  It is a tough place to be, especially for a fourth grader.

Dec
13

Keanu Reeves and the giving spirit of Christmas

When I was a teenager, all I really did was drink Mountain Dew, rollerblade and underachieve at school.  I was an A and F student.  If I liked it I got the good grade.  If I didn’t like it, well, you get the picture.  I lied a lot.  Somehow I thought this was a good way to control my environment.  I had great friends, some believers and some not.  I did theater and speech and debate.  I did not really get along with my dad.  My mom and I were cool, but I’m sure I drove her crazy.  Picture Keanu Reeves a little bit better dressed. My universe pretty much existed two feet from my face, unless I found a phone booth of course (movie reference I hope you get).

Last night I was working with a local youth ministry group.  A beautiful athletic and popular teenage girl stood up at the end of the night and made a plea.  “I volunteer at an elementary school everyday after school helping little kids read,” she said.  “Last week one of the little girls I work with lost her house.”  “Her Christmas tree caught fire and the family lost everything.”  The room was silent.  The young woman let everyone know that she was arranging a fundraiser and needed their help.  “I can’t do this by myself,” the girl said.

A moving moment, to be sure.  But, I was struck by much more.  As a teenage boy, I was not a complete idiot when it came to others needs.  However, I can tell you, I was pretty good at ignoring them.  I never had the confidence or desire to give of my self to others. I love that in this generation of young people there is not only desire, but the need to serve.  Help isn’t coming just from a place of resume builder and college application fill in the blank.  Help is coming from the heart.

Young people are amazing.  If you don’t already know this, then you need to read less of the newspaper and encounter actual people more.  If you do know this than you are tracking with a pretty awesome reality.

Ten teenagers or so stood up as they were dismissed and walked over to the young woman.  “What can we do,” they asked.  To which she explained in detail a number of ways they could participate in the effort.  Awesome.

Be intentional this holiday season and recognize needs in others.  If you don’t see them it is because you are not looking.  Emmanuel came that we might have life and have it to the full.  Christmas time is no time to be incomplete.  And just remember, young people rock.  Get over yourself and lend them your support.