Relationships

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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I Love You

Three very simple words that possess the power to literally change everything.
We’ve heard them so may times we don’t always realize their full implication.
If we don’t hear them, it has a profoundly negative impact on our life.
If we don’t say them, it has a profoundly negative impact on our life.

But what if that’s all you could say? -Continue Reading

When Nothing Changes and Nothing Stays the Same

There are some people in my family who have been wearing certain clothing items for a long, L-O-N-G, time.  These clothes are allegedly, ahem, “broken in” and so comfy that they just a can’t seem to get rid of them or not wear them.

Are you like this?

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I’m not.

I can’t fill the Goodwill bag fast enough.  My motto is if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not ever going to wear it again.  Get rid of it.  But that’s me. I like to make room for change.  I like to see what else I can find.  -Continue Reading

Diamonds and Other Precious Things

I’m just going to be real honest here.  I love treasure hunting. Not in the way you’re probably thinking.  I’m not talking about garage sale-ing or shopping for clearance.  I’m talking hard core treasure hunting; like searching for gold, buried treasure and stuff like that.

Now another confession moment, I’ve never actually been on a treasure hunt, unless you consider an afternoon on the beach with a less than cooperative metal detector, or riffling through old houses at an estate sale.  But I really want to go on one.  It’s a bucket list kind of a thing.

I recently discovered a state park in Arkansas where you can actually search for diamonds in the rubble of a diamond bearing volcanic crater.  If you find a diamond,  you can keep it.

Seriously.

You can find a diamond and take it home.

Who doesn’t want to do that?  Well, ok, so maybe that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine but it does mine.  I have something in me that wants to push through the dirt, rubble and obstacles to find something of great worth.

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When I looked at the pictures of the diamonds people were finding in the park I was surprised. They didn’t look like what I thought they would. I didn’t know they came in so many colors

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The diamonds I have mainly seen are white.  These seem to be the gem of choice for jewelry.  Diamonds typically have been a symbol of wealth and status, opulence and beauty.  Many women prefer a diamond for an engagement ring because it reflects that she has been valued beyond the worlds most desirable gemstone.

But looking at the diamonds from the Arkansas park opens up an entirely new conversation. Does a diamond in the rough have the same value as those that have been polished and cut? Are they not just as much of a diamond?  Is a rough diamond as worthy of a pursuit as a perfectly crafted one?

It seems the diamond of great popularity is the perfectly crafted stone displayed in all its’ glory.  The image of beauty and distinction. Anything less won’t do.

We are all diamonds.

Oh, I would like to reflect the most desirable diamond, however. The one that is cut at the right angle to complement my shape.  The one that fits perfectly into a setting that sparkles and catches everyones admiring eye.  I don’t want to be the diamond of many colors, sizes or shapes.  I don’t want to be clear on one side and cloudy on the other as many diamonds are.

Truth be told, I am that diamond. I have many facets to my personality, experiences, preferences and presence.  You do too.  But why is it that we only find a certain attribute, a perfectly cut diamond, to be the one we want to be esteemed above all else?  Why are we afraid? Why are we uncomfortable with ourselves?  Why is it that we feel an image is something we have to “keep up”?

We are so much more than an image.

Jesus met a woman once while traveling. (Check out John 4) This woman had an image.  It was the only image that fit her at the time and she wore it well. She was a woman who appeared to not be very well liked, to have made mistakes and perhaps gotten herself into situations that she was being judged for.  She couldn’t keep up with images of the honorable women of her day so she succumbed to pressure by staying away from her community. She had no choice but to embrace being a woman with the image of dishonor. An image that wasn’t truly who she was. In feeling unworthy, I wonder if the colors, shapes and cloudiness of her life seemed to disqualify her from being loved and accepted?

We are afraid of being disqualified.

Holding up an image always put us on the defensive, never knowing if someone will pull back the curtain and see the real us is something we protect ourselves against.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes the real us isn’t what the world wants to see anyway.  At times, it’s not what our closest loved one wants to see. They want the perfectly shaped and cut diamond. They don’t want the one that takes the work.  Ouch, but true.

I wonder how often I disqualify the ones that I love because they aren’t as I want them to be or even as I need them to be?

Am I willing to accept the uncut diamonds for their implicit value not for the value of what they bring once they are all fixed up?

Jesus didn’t buy into what the woman was selling. He begins to talk to her not as the devalued, disavowed woman that she believes herself to be, but as a person of worth.  He starts out simple.  He asks her for a drink of water.

Jesus always starts out simple.

He pursues conversation. One of the purest ways to value another human being is to simple engage.  Jesus gives her His time. She is caught off guard by this. No one wants to talk to her but Jesus does. Oh He sees that she isn’t like the other women.  She has taken an alternative path in life, one that has probably come with heartache, disdain and conflict but this doesn’t disqualify her. There are not limits to unconditional love. There are no social, political or religious positions to defend with Jesus. He’s not trying to convince her of anything.  He’s just being Jesus, loving Lord.

Jesus shows there is more than meets the eye.

As their conversation unfolds it’s obvious that this woman is informed and smart.  Jesus has a way of revealing our intelligence to us when we didn’t think we had any. They discuss spiritual matters. Then they discuss real world matters.  It’s obvious that this woman is raw but brave.  Jesus has a way of revealing our bravery to us when we didn’t think have courage. He shows her who she is, not who she has believed herself to be, not as who she wanted the world to see her as, albeit a controversial or cast off.

She is a diamond in the rough and Jesus loves her for it.

There is so much more to people than meet the eye.  Too often I allow boundary lines, color lines, preference lines and battle lines keep me from seeing the diamonds in my midst.

I am guilty. I often only see what people aren’t not what they are.

So I want to go to Arkansas.  I want to go on my treasure hunt.  I want to find diamonds, all kinds of them.  I need to go.  I need to see diamonds as they really are, not as I want them to be.

I want to be a treasure hunter, like Jesus. He helps me know that a diamond in the rough is worth digging for. He would  know.