The B Team

We all know what it means.

You are on the team but you don’t have the same amount of ability or appeal as others, a.k.a. the A Team, hence, you are on the B Team. If you’ve spent any amount of time on a B Team you know it comes with very mixed emotions.  You’re grateful to be a part of something that is good and important to you. You are happy to work hard, in fact most B Team players work harder than anyone; but it can be accompanied by feelings of not being enough or being side stepped and it stings. And you get stung when you’re on the B Team.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to a time in my life when I felt consistently passed over for opportunity, at least it really appeared that way.  Hungry to build an inspiring career, I did what I could to have good experiences with others and tried to create a lasting impression.  You know, stuff our parents told us about when we began working, the stuff we tell our kids to do now. I wanted integrity and I wanted to feel like I was on the A Team. Then, I would be successful.

My season in that place came and went. I never got on the A Team or at least I never felt like I was. Through the years sadness and regret lingered because of it, until I began taking a closer look at something Jesus said.

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It was a story that seemed to be about the B Team. (Click here to read it.)

This is how it went.

There once was a father with two sons.  The younger was arrogant and selfish.  The older was loyal and hard working.  One day the younger son comes to the father and essentially says, I wish you were dead.  Give me my inheritance now so I can live as I please.  This younger son clearly felt staying at home was being forced to play on the B Team and he deserved to be on the A Team. He felt he did not belong where he was. The heart broken father knew his sons heart was hard and there would be no persuading him to stay or to change.  So he gave him the inheritance and let him go.

Not long after, the younger son had squandered all of his money in senseless and numbing ways.  Not only did his economic situation change, the entire regional economy had changed and he began to starve.  He was definitely not on the A Team now.  Worse yet, there were no other A Team players willing to help him out. He was now one of the desperate ones, something he never thought he’d be. He had no choice but to go back home and beg to be one of his fathers servants.

Before he could even reach the house, his father see’s his son returning from a long way off.  The father forgets everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. He runs to embrace him.  He throws the biggest party celebrating the homecoming of his youngest son.

Meanwhile, the older brother gets word about this and he’s ticked off.  He knows his younger brother doesn’t deserve this kind of attention.  He deserves to be forgotten for all time. How could his father celebrate him after all he’s done to them? The older brother is so angry he won’t even cross the threshold of the door where the party was being held.

The father learns his older son has arrived and is saddened that he will not join them. Relationships had been fractured.  He goes out to meet with him, to plead with him.  The older son begins complaining about how he worked for the father for years with great diligence and loyalty and he feels slighted by this extravagant party. He’s done everything he could to please his father and earn his good graces, why had he never been given a party like this?  He didn’t want to be there. He no longer felt he belonged.

His mind must have mingled with thoughts like:

  • Am I not good enough?
  • Do I not do a good job?
  • Does my father not like me?
  • Does my father like my brother better than me?

The older son clearly felt the sting of the B Team.

The story ends this way.  There is no resolve for the older brother.  We do not know if the younger brother remains grateful and faithful.  We only know the father was happy that his younger son was home.

This ending is so normal and painfully real.

Part of being a human is experiencing relational anger, wounds, confusion and envy. We don’t just get happy because our brother isn’t embarrassing the family any more. Our soul holds every bit of hurt, distrust and rage when relationships spiral’s downward.

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And that is normal.

I think Jesus was using a very real world scenario to help us explore an invitation from God.

The father responds to his older son. Words exploding with meaning and significance.  My son you are always with me, everything I have is yours. 

There never was a B Team.

If the older son had wanted a big party, the father would have given it to him.  Every good thing that father had available to him was also accessible to his older son.  But the older son just didn’t know it. He didn’t believe it.

The sins of the younger brother affected the older brother.  The acceptance and reclamation of the younger son by the father, also impacted him. Self-doubt, insecurity, feelings of insignificance, jealousy, anger and loss of compassion had emerged.  When the father wrapped himself around the broken and hungry younger brother, it made the older brother question his own value to his father.  Jealousy rumbled. It made him long for the attention and celebration his younger brother was now receiving.

Tough things that happen in relationships can cause difficulty, chaos and confusion. Patience and a willingness to wait, allow emotions time to settle. Time to become ready for healing, reconciliation or restored relationship. The father pleaded with his older son to become ready. Ready to face his pain and move into freedom. His emotions were raw and unfiltered.  The father welcomed his son’s pain and gave it a soft place to land.

This story paints a beautiful picture of how God understands the emotional, mental, physical and relational twists and turns that happen to us.  He does not disparage either humanity’s grievousness or the pain that comes from being wounded by those we love.  He understands that often times the ways we relate in our circumstances and with one another, we inadvertently lose our self-esteem and sense of worth. He welcomes our brokenness and gently invites our hearts back home. Back to the place where it’s spoken until we believe once again, THERE IS NO B TEAM.

We always belong and have a safe place to wrestle with the difficulties of being human. When we feel we’ve slipped onto the B Team of life God reminds us that you are always with me and everything I have is yours.

This story is about two broken brothers who feel trapped by the B Team, that their worth and happiness are threatened because they don’t believe they belong.  This story is also about a loving father who wants his sons to know they have been on the A Team all along and with him THERE IS NO B TEAM.

 

 

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The Cookie Tin

 

Every week my mom made a tin of chocolate chip cookies. The tin was kept in a cabinet by the stove, middle shelf.  It never changed.  She always used to say it had to last through the week.  It rarely did because the cookies came out when friends came over.

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The cookies were always a hit.  I’m not sure if it was because they tasted so good or if it was because it was part of the experience coming to the Perez home.  Everyone knew where the cookie tin was.  Everyone was welcome to grab a cookie. Mom had a way of making sure they knew that.  But that was part of her charm.

My friends loved coming to my house because of my mom.  She was (and still is) this warm, inviting and attentive presence.  Never intrusive, demanding or loud, just always there with a smile, hug and kind conversation.  The cookie tin was evidence of the hospitality in her heart.

Hospitality is the art of welcoming others.

People are drawn to hospitality.

Hospitality says you belong. 

It puts people at ease and allows their guard to come down. There is a feeling of acceptance when hospitality is extended. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t need to feel this way.

It’s not always something that comes easily. If we don’t feel welcomed or a sense of belonging in our own world it feels difficult to offer it to someone else. But that’s where we get things backwards.  We recoil when what we need most is to move towards. Hospitality multiplies a sense of belonging and love in us when we give it to others.  Our tank fills up when we lean into hospitality. Just because we haven’t received it does NOT disable us from giving it. It does not take much to let someone else know you welcome and invite their presence with you. To show that you are aware of others around you and are interested.  To notice and acknowledge another is one of the greatest expressions of kindness. This is one of the best ways to be a human.

This cookie tin memory has me thinking about the ways I welcome others in my life. The ways that I can be hospitable.  I may not have a tin of cookies to offer. But ..

  • I can offer a warm smile or the gift of attention.
  • I can be diligent in keeping my house as presentable as possible so that it’s inviting, ready and unencumbered when unexpected friends come.
  • I can engage with others. Learning the art of asking questions to so I can better see into their world.
  • I can make a bedroom comfortable and pleasant when a someone stays the night.
  • I can choose to not be on my phone in a store so that I’m giving attention to the strangers around me as I shop. For even the stranger needs to be noticed and acknowledged.
  • I can stop what I’m doing and look my husband in the eye as we reconnect at the end of the day.
  • I can give faithful greetings to those whom I see every day and show interest in their life.
  • I can invite others to my home for a meal. Just because being together matters.

Hospitality is a gift that is opens us up beautifully.

It’s easier sometimes to avoid contact with others but hospitality reminds us that it is much better to belong than it is to be alone. We can all use a little more hospitality, don’t you think?

What is your tin of cookies?

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Glorious

What do you think of when you hear the word, glorious?

It’s not really a word that seems to be used a lot.

By definition it is:

glo·ri·ous     ˈɡlôrēəs

adjective
1. having, worthy of, or bringing fame or admiration.
2. having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.
It’s hard to picture something that is worth admiration lately.  When was the last time beauty or splendor evoked a response of delight? Yeah, me neither.

But as I look around this Christmas I’m reminded of a scene that would definitely be described as glorious.

A night sky filled with stars.  Shepherds looking after their sheep in the dark, careful not to lose any sheep to a ravenous predator.

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Suddenly the sky rips open and reality is revealed.
Astounding sights and sounds flood the earth.
The kind of power and beauty that terrifies, weakens and causes you to weep in awe.
Shepherds both afraid and astounded.
O hear the angels voices.
God is near.
The sky explodes in celebration showering the unprepared with shouts and praise.
Light shimmering on the backdrop of earths’ tired and worn atmosphere.
Splendor and majesty were an understatement.
Caught up between heaven and earth, the shepherds laid bare. Something glorious ripped open the mundane and ordinary evening. It demanded to be heard, seen and felt.

Hidden Glory

Whether I am aware or not, heaven is alive with a weighty worship. The night sky has been opened for good but it’s hard to see this in my ordinary and mundane. Moments waiting to strike me with beauty and awe.
Glory streams from heaven afar.  Heavenly Hosts singing Alleluia. The thrill of hope.
Is my tired and worn out life the perfect backdrop for something glorious?

Heaven imploding:

  • To proclaim something altogether new and powerful
  • To give something to hold onto
  • To declare someone to belong to
  • To bring love

 

So come close to me Christmas I crave your glory.

Your carols make my heart want more.

Tear my night sky open and knock me to my knees, laid low in awe and fear.

Tell me the good news. I need to hear it again. To be wrapped up in glorious wonder.

Embrace me Christmas and hold me until I run looking for Jesus because anything other than that is absurd.

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How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: FOUR

Sometimes life takes our breath away.  Some days we stumble through the fog wondering if we will ever feel happy again. Most all of us experience this in one form or another. But not all of us are honest enough to call it what it is, depression, anxiety, fear…and not all of us are brave enough to share the experience with others so that it might be a comfort and help.

My final guest is both honest and brave.  I’ve known Linda most of my entire life. Among being an extremely talented woman, interior designer, business owner, actress, model, writer, music producer, yoga instructor…the girl isn’t afraid to try anything…she is the most vulnerable and transparent person I’ve ever known. Sharing freely her heart and life experiences with others just to shine a light, bring comfort or give hope to a weary soul.

Today’s final post in this series is a bit heavier than the previous.  But I believe that this topic is real and necessary for us to talk about.  Depression and anxiety affects every single home.  Although it can be very troubling and dark it does not have to be forever.  We can find our way through, but it takes all of us to be willing to discuss it openly, to pursue help, to de-stigmatize it so that we can all find our way through the fog.

Everyone, meet Linda.

It’s Going to Be OK

The hollow, heavy ball of fear landed in the pit of my stomach New Years Day.

Like an intruder.

Uninvited it came.

Stealing any sense of peace or fragment of hope that I was clinging to. I felt its’ constant grip tightening around my mind. My limbs felt as if electrical currents were running through them and caused me to feel uncomfortable even in my own skin. Sleep was elusive and unwelcome- it only meant that I would face more time in hell when I awoke.

My bedroom had become my prison cell, my bed a place of exposure-exacerbating the struggle to escape. My body curled in the protective posture of a child that would not settle, trembling as my mind drifted toward a hopeless place of despair.

Randi, a friend of mine since childhood, called me during one of these endless days of sheer fear and as she talked over the phone in her soothing voice like a mother to her babe. She painted a picture for me in my troubled mind.

Linda, you know when you’re driving in the fog and it’s so dark and thick that you can’t even see an inch in front of you? Then all of the sudden you reach the edge and it suddenly clears. Well , you could be very near that edge.

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It was a simple picture that had a profound impact on me. It was a divinely inspired word in season and ripe with the hope I needed at that very moment.

I didn’t expect it.

I didn’t do anything to make it happen.

It was a gift.

It’s going to be OK. I needed to hear those words repeatedly during this dark bout of anxiety. I would ask those close to me; my husband, my sisters, my family to say those simple words to me because I really didn’t know if I was going to be OK again.
I felt as though I was wearing a mask when I would interact with people. I had the sensation of peering out from my body like a costume.  My inward reality was much like that of a frightened child who was hiding. I was so filled with fear that I couldn’t eat. I lost over 30 pounds which only added to my anxiety. I felt like I was slowly losing my ability to function.

It scared me.

It scared my family.

I was seeing a counselor and she suggested that I go on a low dose of Prozac to help me get my emotional feet under me. She said, Linda, I believe you can get to the other side of this with or without medication, but the longer you stay in this severe state of anxiety, the more of a toll it will take on your self-esteem. I did go on Prozac for six months and it made a big difference with my ability to heal, but the aftermath and damaged self worth took a couple of years to heal.

I pleaded with God to lift the darkness and take away the fear but it was a slow process and it was hard to understand. I needed others to stand in the gap for me during  that time and they did. I clung to words of hope and truth from God’s word that became like doses of spiritual medicine as I would read them over and over.

So much of my fear was about my future. I felt that I would never do the things I loved again. I couldn’t picture how anything was going to be made right. I felt so lost. And I was. But through the help of family, friends, wise counsel, unending prayer, medication and a God who would never fail me – I made it through and became stronger because of it.

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Journal entry
3/5/2001
I think the longer I walk with God, the more questions I have…
I find this comforting. As His mystery and majesty have grown, so have His
trustworthiness and faithfulness in my life. I find His largeness combined with His goodness very settling. My faith has become more childlike in its’ maturity. There are many things I don’t even strive to understand anymore—I know that God is good, and that is enough. His goodness is like an undercurrent that runs beneath the surface of my being–it carries me through troubling times and reminds me that, if I allow it to, it will take me to deeper places of trust and faith.

linda lee puffer
11.21.17

Do you think you could be experiencing depression or anxiety and it’s bigger than you can handle?  The holidays can trigger emotional turmoil. Please, reach out to someone for help. If you don’t know a doctor or counselor, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you find the next step toward healing and help. A courageous person is not someone who feels strong.  It is someone who knows they need help beyond themselves. Blessings to you my friends.

How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: Three

Life can be a roller coaster.  So can our emotions.  We are living in a reactionary time where people react with untempered emotions. Sometimes it makes things worse. Some times life requires a great deal of emotion to influence change.  Emotions are a part of the human story. We do need them. But what about our own emotions when hardship happens or when we aren’t doing so well in life? Each one of us has a different emotional barometer. When they rise and fall along with the up’s and downs of life, what do we lean on for hope, certainty or truth?  Our emotions don’t provide a secure foundation to hang on to during a trial.  This next post is a snippet from a friend who grappled with this very thing and has some helpful wisdom to share with all of us.

Today my guest writer is Ed Schief. Any one who knows him is always the better. He is both uncomplicated and deep. Without fail he starts a meeting with a funny story.  He is the perfect combination of artist and pragmatist.  They really do exist. Ed works as a musician. He has a duo music act with wife, Molly. You can find their FaceBook page by clicking here.  He’s also a music director for a very cool and eclectic church called, Manna.

Everyone, meet Ed.

Today I saw a red and yellow sunset and thought, how insignificant I am!  Of course, I thought that yesterday too, and it rained.” ~ Woody Allen

At a time in my life when things were very, very dark, I stood looking out my front window at the cemetery across the street.  The city kept this cemetery in utterly beautiful condition.  It was like a park with its’ mature trees, manicured grass, and paved pathways.  The sun was filtering through the leaves. It was gorgeous.

And I hated it.

I hated the beauty of it that afternoon, because it seemed like a cheat.

I thought, Yeah, it’s beautiful, but someday it will look horrible. It will look horrible because everything in this life ends up dying.  Why bother enjoying it when you KNOW it’s going to fade and rot and disappoint you. Oh sure, the next life will be great, I believe that. But this life? A complete and utter veil of tears.  Better to just hang on and try to make it through without hoping for too much.

I was pretty down that day.

Less than a week later my situation brightened considerably and I felt a wonderful welling up of hope.  I was again looking out at the same cemetery on another beautiful day.  This time I felt differently.

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I thought, Okay, there IS a reason to enjoy the beauty of this world, God HAS made beauty for us to enjoy, and I should take what I can get and be thankful. Things really do sometimes turn out good.

And then this came to mind.

Three days ago the cemetery made me feel despondent and I came to a conclusion about the nature of the world.  Today it makes me feel hopeful, and I’ve changed my conclusion to something else.

If I’m going to come to a solid conclusion about the world, about life, about the nature of the universe, I’ll clearly have to base it on something OTHER  than my feelings, because my feelings are completely unreliable.  I have to look outside myself, find the truth someplace else and bring that truth in where I can steady myself on it.

What’s the truth about God, the nature of the universe, life, all that?

The answer is:     go out and find it for yourself.

Read the Bible, talk to people you trust, read what great thinkers and theologians have written.  Ask God for wisdom.  Work for it.  And when you’ve worked for it like that, you won’t be adrift, vulnerable to every big and little wind that blows.