I gave Jesus a ride to work (re-blog)

I gave Jesus a ride to work today.  When he got in my car he introduced himself as “Marcus” but I knew he was Jesus.  He told me he worked at 61st and Peoria selling cigarettes.

I was on my way to work and saw him walking on the street in the cold.  I was careful; before I offered him a ride I put my wallet in my coat pocket and slid my bag with my iPad behind the seat.  He was friendly and inconvenient and inappropriate. The moment he sat in the car he thanked me and then cranked the heat high without asking.  A few minutes later he asked me to turn some country music on the radio.  I hate country music — inconvenient and inappropriate.  He asked me to stop at McDonalds and when I offered to buy him his sandwich he asked if I would buy him coffee, too -— with six packets of sugar and six packets of cream. The nerve of this guy.

Ironically, he did a better job asking me about myself than I did asking him.  He told me he didn’t go to church because the churches he’s attended didn’t say what he wanted to hear.  “But, if I do go to church I want to go with you.  When are you going to take me to church and have me in your house in Broken Arrow?”

I found myself back-tracking.  I wasn’t looking to invest my life . . . I was only looking to do a good deed and then get on with my day.  I found myself thinking of people and/or churches in his area I could contact who were “better able” to help him.  I gave him my work number instead of my cell hoping he wouldn’t call.

As he finished eating he said, “I never eat the last bite — I always leave it for the homeless because they don’t have anything.”

Calvin G. Roso © December 2013

Good books entice you with the familiar and then pull your heart out.

When our youngest daughter was a toddler she LOVED the book Go Dog Go, by P. D. Eastman. She was content sitting in someone’s lap having the book read to her again, and again, and again, and again. The worrisome father in me was concerned that she loved the book for its humanist philosophies. But my fears were relieved when she told me the reason she liked the book was the yellow dog — he looked like her special puppy. Great books softly entice you with the familiar and once you’re hooked they pull your heart out.

One such book I’ve read recently is When We Were on Fire, by Addie Zierman. Addie’s book is her personal journey of making her faith her own in her teens and early twenties. I heard of the book in an article by Philip Yancey about great books in 2013. I was hesitant to read another book by a post-evangelical that ended in angry finger-pointing, so I started with the preface and then jumped to the final chapter. I was soon overwhelmed by Addie’s artistic craft and could relate to her well-told story. Addie Zierman gives a raw and honest description of her journey from religion, to relationship, to faith.

Addie’s writing is some of the best descriptive writing I’ve seen by recent Christian authors. She writes with imagery that is often saved only for poetry or fiction. Her book exposes her feelings of isolation in a society that preached community: “I’d spent four years in high school looking for a way to stand apart for the Lord. I’d been standing, all this time, alone at a flagpole, waiting for someone to take my picture.”

While other writers might share their weaknesses, they often do so in a way that depicts their actions as justifiable, excusable, and even a little cool. Not so with Addie. Her vulnerability is both gripping and haunting. She presents herself at her weakest moments and although hurt and disillusioned by the church, Addie acknowledges her own shortcomings. What I find refreshing is not only Addie’s humility, but also her forgiveness. In the conclusion of the book (and in the appendix interview) Addie shows grace and forgiveness to others whose actions (both conscious and unconscious) clearly devastated her. “I’ve [also] missed the loneliness of others simply because I wasn’t really looking,” she writes.

Addie’s journey reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ novel Till We Have Faces where the narrator begins with the words “I have an argument with the gods.” From that point on, the narrator’s entire journey consists of validating all the reasons the gods are at fault. The turning point in the novel is when she comes face-to-face with the gods and her written arguments (an entire scroll full) are turned to dust in the presence of the divine. I sense this same conclusion in When We were on Fire when Addie’s faith is reshaped by the ongoing process a relationship with God in the midst of questions. Addie concludes, “The real work of faith has nothing to do with saying the right words. It has to do with redefining them, chipping away at the calcified outer crust until you find the simple truth at the center of it all. Jesus.”

*Follow Addie’s blog at http://addiezierman.com

Look for my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can find it on facebook, Twitter @croso1, at crosoblog.com or have a copy sent directly to your email.
Calvin G. Roso © February 2014

Sins of disposition: Dark coffee, no cream, and a shot of affirmation

When I first started drinking coffee it costed about 30 cents a cup. Now I stop at the same Starbucks on my way to work each day to buy a small cup of coffee for almost two dollars. I keep thinking it will be worth it one day — the day the baristas (coffee servers) remember my name. They do, ironically, remember the name of the guy who takes up three parking spots outside with his big ugly truck. But I’m not the favorite customer and it bothers me. I wish it was like the old “Cheers” sitcom and each time I stepped in the door everyone would shout out my name.

It irritates me that I’m seeking affirmation at Starbucks. I’ve seen this negative disposition in myself at other times, also. For example, a lady has a flat tire and I stop to help. It feels nice to help her out . . . until random nice guy stops and begins to help, too. And not only does he help, but he does a better job helping and eventually takes over. All of the sudden I’ve lost my joy in helping because it’s become a kind of competition to me. And, like most competitions I’m in, I’m quickly losing.

I don’t think my reasons for helping others start out wrong. There’s something inside me that wants to help, and while the initial motive is right, sometimes things get twisted inside me. Here’s the deal — I’m aware that at any given moment I think about myself too much. And, sadly, I do this even at the times when I should be helping others. The Christ in me wants to do what’s right but, more often than not, the Me in me gets in the way.

Times of helping others can be awkward for me. It’s awkward because my sanguine personality wants to be affirmed . . . like a middle school kid standing alone at one end of the gym dance floor waiting to be noticed. And I’m embarrassed that I’m even thinking about myself at a time when I should be thinking of others. Instead of trying to feel better about myself, I should be trying to help others feel better.

In his book Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller confesses, “The overwhelming majority of time I spend thinking about myself, pleasing myself, reassuring myself, and when I am done there’s nothing to spare for the needy. Six billion people live in this world and I can only muster thoughts for one. Me.” Instead of self-absorption, Jesus was consumed by the needs of others. After most miracles, Jesus said, “Don’t tell anyone.” Why? Maybe He was more interested in meeting needs than in being recognized. O to be more like Jesus.

*Find practical ways to serve others in the free ebook Simple Ways to Be Missional at Verge

Look for my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can find it on facebook, @croso1 on Twitter, at crosoblog.com or have a copy sent directly to your email.
Calvin G. Roso © February 2014

Church discipline: Our four heads were smacked together like Dominoes.

As an adult, my temptation is to be stiff and rational in my worship while inwardly judging the motives or sincerity of others who don’t worship the same as I do. (I’m great at judging others — it’s kind of a spiritual gift.) One of my brothers recently reminded me of worship times in our old church. The Roso family of six was packed into one pew — parents sitting near the aisle with four well-behaved boys all lined up according to age. When the worship started, Mom hummed along and Dad sang in his best mechanic voice: on key/off key/on rhythm/off rhythm. I struggled following which line we were singing from, sometimes caught singing the chorus when everyone else was . . . not. The Roso Choir: one end of the pew, three of us sounded like an un-tuned Mayan orchestra, and the other end my brothers sang entirely different words while making irreverent farting noises.

One of the very first miracles I ever experienced in church was the “stretching arm miracle.” Monday through Saturday, Dad had short, thick arms, but church is where the miracle happened. When Huey was messing around on the far end of the pew, Dad’s arms miraculously stretched three or four times their natural length so he could reach to smack the head of the offending son. The problem, however, was that when he smacked the back of Huey’s head, all the smaller heads in between knocked together like Dominoes. A lot of heads were smacked just because one child misbehaved in church. Sometimes group worship can be a little painful.

I was very enthusiastic about God when I was a child, so I was often “that kid” who would do anything to be noticed. For example, on Sunday nights when Pastor asked for testimonies I always had something to say. Sometimes he tried to ditch me by asking for more specific testimonies.
Pastor: Anyone who has blue hair and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, please stand up and testify what the Lord has done for you this week.
Me (standing): I thought my goldfish was dead and now he’s alive!
Congregation: Praise God?
Pastor: Thank you, Calvin.
Pastor (next week): I’d like to hear from some of our young mothers tonight. What has God been doing in your life?
Me (jumping up and down): I thought my electric train set was broken last Monday and I prayed about it. Then, when I hooked the wires up correctly, it started working again! And best of all, the next day I sold the train set for ten bucks!
Congregation: Oh my!
Pastor: I give up.

When a friend of mine was first married, he and his wife were so happy together that it made things really awkward for the rest of us. They called each other “precious” and “honey bumpkin” and things like that. They sat unreasonably close to each other and even held hands and such. And they were always smiling and looking into each other’s eyes (gross). No one knew how to act around them . . . When Flipper (not his real name) was alone with the rest of the guys we would, of course, harass him about his actions. But Flipper didn’t care. He was newly in love and his emotions where high. People who are newly in love sometimes act a little goofy — and that’s okay, I guess.

It’s okay to sometimes do goofy things when we are excited about God. It’s like when Peter saw Jesus with Elijah and Moses. Peter was in love with Jesus and so full of excitement all he could blurt out was, “Let’s build tents!” If I was Jesus, I would have rolled my eyes and thought, “Tents? Where did we get this guy?” But instead, I think Jesus might have smiled. (Jesus is always kind like that.). I’ve been going to church for several decades and I want to be more accepting, even when people in love with God do things different than how I would do them. Jesus told us that we needed to be like children to enter heaven, and maybe a child-like, enthusiastic love for God is part of what that means. I’m not sure what that kind of love for God looks like, but I want more of it in my life.

Look for my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can find it on facebook, Twitter, at crosoblog.com or have a copy sent directly to your email.
Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

Why I still keep going to church

When I was a kid I loved going to church. I loved the candy they gave me in Sunday School and loved the high-tech demonstrations like chalk talks and flannel graphs. I loved potluck dinners and church picnics. I loved most of the people, even though some of them creeped me out at times. I went to church for the food and the community back then. I really went because my parents said I had no choice. (Good parents bossed their kids around a lot back then.)

When I was in college, I went to church for more spiritual reasons — the girls. But it was during my college years that I also began to experience God’s love through church people. People who cared enough to challenge me when I was wrong. People who cared enough to be with me when I hurt. People who cared enough to be like Christ — faithful in my darkest hours. It was at church where I was loved by God through others. And it is at church where I’m learning how to love God in return.

I know. I know. Church isn’t a building — Church is people. I can have wonderful times connecting with God when I am alone (and I do), but because church is people (plural), I cannot have church by myself. I know. I know. The church is full of hypocrites. Noah Webster said a hypocrite is someone who “says he is what he is not; one who has the form of godliness without the power, or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute of true religion.” I’ve been a hypocrite in all of those ways one time or another in my life. Some of the people who have hurt me the most have been church people. Those who hurt me were sinful. But I, too, am sinful; I have also hurt others. Yet in spite of the hurt, there are the church people who have cared for me (again and again and again). These are the ones like Jesus — they are like how I hope to become.

The Bible shows me that the church is a community of Christ-followers who hang out with each other a lot. Among other things, they gather regularly for worship, prayer, communion, studying the Bible, and meeting the needs of others. The Bible church is a community, a culture, a way of doing life together. The church gets together as often as possible, encouraging each other and doing good things for those who are less fortunate. Over time, the church looks less like culture and more like Jesus. The church and Jesus start to look alike because they spend all their time together.

I go to church because I know that being around others who follow Christ makes me stronger and keeps me from getting my beliefs about God all screwed up. I go to church because most people I know who have permanently stopped going to church are lonely, empty, or hurting. I go to church because I’m trying to love Jesus and church is where He wants to be. When I was a teenager, an older friend of mine got married. I soon learned that if I wanted to remain his friend, I had better learn to like his bride. Jesus loves the church so much that He calls the church His bride. I can’t love Jesus unless I’m willing to embrace His bride, the church.

So what about those times when church isn’t especially exciting for me? Maybe the worship isn’t my style or the teaching doesn’t help me during that season in my life. Those are the times when God reminds me that church was never intended to be about me. I’m there to love God, to be motivated, and “to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, 25). And the coffee’s not too bad, either.

Look for my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can find it on facebook, Twitter @croso1, at crosoblog.com or have a copy sent directly to your email.
Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

Sixth grade: Green bell bottom pants and a three-legged dog.

The lessons I remember from childhood are lessons from relationships, not from textbooks or math scores. When I was in sixth grade, a couple dozen of neighborhood kids ages six-to-twelve spent our days in and out of each other’s yards, playing softball and tag, and hitting each other with sticks. On summer evenings, when the days were extra long, we played outside forever, barely stopping for supper before we raced back outside again. I remember playing tag in the dark one night when I ran into a clothesline neck-first. I hit the line full speed: One second my feet flipped into the air and then I hit the ground hard. There I was, flat on my back, surrounded by laughter, and clean socks and underwear. The next day I had a pretty impressive burn mark across my neck. Instead of being the kid who got beat up by laundry, I pretended I was a convict who cunningly escaped from the noose on the day of his execution.

The clothesline accident occurred at “Stan-the-Man’s” house. Stan-the-Man had become my best friend that year for several reasons: (1) His dog had only three legs. (2) His house was underground — only a basement with an above-ground door. (3) We were both in the same grade. (4) We had a lot of things in common like gopher trapping and hitting each other with sticks. (5) Did I mention his dog had only three legs?

My two older brothers, Huey and Duey, were just entering high school so I don’t remember seeing them around much those days. They had jobs at a local A&W and bought a small motorcycle they would occasionally drive around the neighborhood trying to run the slower kids down. When Huey and Duey had free time I think they sat around the house listening to Captain & Tennille on eight-track tapes.

My brother Spartacus hung out with the younger kids and he helped us learn to trap gophers in the big field near the football stadium. We’d set the traps over a random hole at night and go the next morning to magically find gophers struggling to get free. (Some weren’t struggling but it was still awesome.). I think it was Spartacus who suggested we transfer all the wounded gophers to the empty yard across the street from our house. By the end of the summer there must have been forty or more slightly lame rodents forging a new life in that abandoned lot. Normally gophers had to worry about being chased by nearby dogs, but the closest dog to them was Stan-the-Man’s dog who only ran in circles.

I liked school that year because I didn’t feel left out as much as I had in the past. In previous grades it was like I was one or two assignments behind the other kids, like I was never on the right page, like everyone else got something that I didn’t. But Miss Van Hook showed interest in a awkward little kid whose only talent was telling stories and trapping gophers. One day she even let me bring a fresh gopher to school for dissection — how cool was that? She encouraged me to enter stuff in the art show (fun) and later had me try out for the choir (horrifying). I’m not sure why she paid attention to me — maybe it was because my best friend had a three-legged dog, or maybe it was because I wore a pair of shiny green bell bottom pants with white pockets. Whatever her motive was, Miss Van Hook made me want to come to school for reasons beyond just lunch and recess. I think she did this for a lot of other kids, too. Miss Van Hook made me feel like I had something to contribute . . . like I belonged. Good teachers impact kids in ways that cannot be tested. And forty years later, the most important lessons will not be forgotten.

Note: Look for my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can find it on facebook, Twitter, at crosoblog.com or have a copy sent directly to your email.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

How the Polar Vortex changed my week.

I felt a little anxious yesterday and I’m not sure why. Maybe because the weekend was busy. Maybe it was because the “polar vertex” (the media’s term for cold weather from Canada) was moving down south again so I nearly died jogging outside in the morning. Or, maybe it’s because I had no idea what to blog about except I wanted to say “polar vortex” several times.

Our daughters have both been sick. Last Wednesday our youngest, Fair Maiden Two, came home from college with the flu of some sort. She told us she was quarantined from campus for H1N1, but I think she got sick because one day it’s 70 degrees outside and the next day the polar vortex rolls in and nearly freezes our hineys off. There was a fun side to her illness though: I was able to come home early and hang out to play games. (Fair Maiden Two is a world champion at triple solitaire but loses every time at Battleship.)

The same day Fair Maiden Two was sick, Fair Maiden One phoned us to say she wasn’t feeling well (our daughters are very competitive). Long story short, she was diagnosed with Mononucleosis. The sad part is she’s still very sick and the cold air from the polar vortex makes her throat hurt even more. The fun part is I’ve been tweeting mono puns to her all day:
> You’re so sick that you can only sing in monotone.
> You’re so sick that you commute to work on the monorail.
> You’re so sick you want to monopolize every conversation.
> You’re so sick you have to speak in monosyllables.
> You’re so sick all your sweaters are monogrammed.
> You’re so sick you wear a monocle instead of contact lenses.
> You’re so sick your favorite painting is the Mono Lisa.
> You’re so sick you think my puns are monotonous.

I think the toughest part of feeling sick is how you feel — alone. One of my earliest childhood memories was my being alone in a hospital, standing up in a crib and crying for someone to help. The room was cold and empty and gray. I don’t remember what I was sick with or how I got better. All I remember is a small toddler all alone, crying out for help. Aloneness.

People who care and comfort at just the right moment remind us that we are not alone. An email, a text, a random phone call, or a short visit makes us feel less lonely in a world where all of us ache for companionship . . . for someone to notice. I firmly believe that God exists, that He cares, and that He heals. But even on my worst days, I’m convinced that God wants me to find someone else who needs to know that he or she is not alone. In his book, Tangible, Chris Sicks calls helping others “the apologetic of mercy” — meaning the best way to prove God exists is not by my words but through my care. Most days I’m not good at caring for anyone other than myself. It’s easier to not notice or to make excuses. After all, the polar vortex slowed me down.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

* Find Chris Sicks’ book at: Tangible

Lessons in forgiveness: I punched Bobby in the gut and he danced.

When I was in elementary school, I learned the art of punching people in the gut. I was a very little guy, so I probably aimed for the gut because the nose was too high for me to reach. I didn’t like fights, mind you, but in elementary school there were times when my anger got the best of me and I resorted to childish behavior. The first time I ever punched a kid in the gut was in second grade. We just came in from gym class and, as was to be expected, my team lost.

Ricky and I were waiting in line for our turn at the water fountain.
Ricky: Ha ha, Calvin, we won! You lost! We won! You lost!
Me: Shut up Ricky!
Ricky: Ha ha, we won! You lost! We won! You lost!
(Sound of a fist punching Ricky’s stomach.)
(Sound of Ricky whimpering.)
Favorite Teacher: Calvin, what did you do? I’m disappointed in you. I thought you were a nice boy.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson when I disappointed Favorite Teacher, but instead I became a hardened gut-punching criminal. A few months later I was hanging out with my new best friend, Jimmy. I really liked being friends with Jimmy because his family had money so Jimmy owned all the Tonka trucks ever made. Plus, when I went to play at Jimmy’s house I was sometimes invited to stay for lunch if I asked several times. The problem with having Jimmy as my new best friend was . . . Bobby, my old best friend.

New Best Friend Jimmy and I were hanging out on the playground one day and I felt a tugging on my arm. I turned back and there was Old Best Friend Bobby clinging to my sleeve.
Me: Bobby, stop hanging around me, I want to play with Jimmy!
Bobby: But we’re best friends.
Me: But I’m tired of hanging out with you!
Bobby: But I want to play.
Jimmy runs on.
(Sound of my fist punching Bobby’s stomach.)
(Sound of Bobby crying LOUDLY.)
Me (feeling guilty): I’m sorry.
Bobby: (Sniff.)
Me: Forgive me?
Bobby: Can we be friends?
Me: Yes. I’m sorry.
And before I had time to say anything else, Bobby got this huge grin on his face. He grabbed my arms and started laughing and jumping up and down. And for some reason I forgot all about what had happened, and I started laughing and jumping up and down, too.

I’m not really sure what was in Bobby’s mind that April day on the playground. I screwed up. I was a lousy, rude, self-centered, friend. I was trying to ditch Bobby and when I couldn’t get my way, I punched him in the gut. And all Bobby wanted to do was grab my arms, and laugh, and jump up and down, and dance. If I ever meet God on a playground, I think he will be a lot like Bobby. Here I am having pushed God aside again for another best friend, crawling back to ask forgiveness. . . . But as soon as God sees me, He gets this huge grin on His face and welcomes me back with open arms. He welcomes me back. Then He starts jumping up and down and laughing as He grabs my arms. Once He sees me, all God wants to do is dance.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

A lesson from MLK Jr: Do justice or be love?

The first time I was ever involved in any kind of protest was when I was a sophomore in college. Our dormitory was notorious for vandalism and that year it had escalated to such a degree that the director of campus housing made a drastic ruling: No current students living in the dormitory could return to that dorm the next school year. I then led a cause for justice against the horrendous decision. We bought a full-page advertisement in the school newspaper protesting the decision. We wore T-Shirts that depicted our plight and our rage. Our cries for justice rang loud as we “stuck it to the man” — and his family — by posting signs on the front lawn of the housing director’s home. I then began to organize the greatest protest of all . . . we would stake out in tents on the campus lawn until our voices were heard and the decision was changed. Surely 800 students in tents would bring justice. Our fight would go down in history as a turning point for students’ rights everywhere. The plans moved forward. We were prepared.

It rained the day that the campout was scheduled, so instead of pitching our tents we stayed in our warm dormitory beds. Our fervor fizzled and we eased back into collegiate apathy. And in the end it didn’t matter to me anymore. I had somehow lost sight of why we were protesting in the first place. What for me began as a stand for justice became lost in the thrill of the fight.

Not all fights for justice are the same. It was 20 years after my failed campus rebellion when I first met Bethany (not her real name). With no money or support from local churches or government, this lady who was barely out of high school started an orphanage in a city where thousands of street people were being harassed by both citizens and police. I’ve visited her orphanage multiple times since then and met the children, children who were previously abused and abandoned, who now had a home, meals, an education, a future, and a family. Ironically, Bethany originally planned a temporary stay in that city, wanting to soon move on to help orphans in India. “But, I fell in love with the children here” is her only explanation. Bethany’s trust in God and commitment to justice and love, gives kids who were previously treated like vermin a chance for a full life. Bethany hasn’t made a name for herself, but she has made a future for the children.

On a day when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is tempting to separate the man’s actions of justice from his character of love and his reliance on God. Dr. King, like the majority of great men and women who have impacted social change in the world, had a belief that all people were created equal by God. God’s love for all people compelled Dr. King to fight for justice, not for personal gain. I don’t believe that those who do great things are motivated to be great — instead they are willing to make themselves small to help those who cannot help themselves. They are motivated by love and justice while also acknowledging that they cannot fight the fight alone.

The over 100 verses in the Bible about justice share some common themes: First, these verses don’t advocate an a ambiguous justice for the masses; they advocate justice on a personal level, one life at a time. Second, most of the verses on justice argue against the evils of favoritism. But I want to selectively divvy out love and justice to the intangible masses: Love for the starving person in India; justice for the cigarette-smoking beggar on the streets of my town. Love for the poor orphan child in Honduras; justice for the noisy neighbor kid who kicks his soccer ball against my garage door. Love for those who are gracious and thankful; justice for those who have a sense of entitlement. Love when it’s convenient and affordable; justice when it’s not.

True justice requires an impartial love that comes only from God. Hosea 12:6 says “Come back to your God. Act with love and justice, and always depend on him” (NLT). When I come to God, I am compelled toward love first and then justice. A humble dependence on God provides the me the grace to not lose sight of why I do what I do. Humility before God makes love and justice personal. Love and justice must begin in my neighborhood: The widow who lives down the street, the children in the nearby shelter, and the pregnant 13-year-old who attends my neighborhood school — they each need love and justice. Love and justice through the eyes of God creates in me a new daily sensitivity to the needs around me and willingness to sacrifice myself to meet those needs. Tom Davis says it well: “Being a living sacrifice starts with being sensitive to those people God brings to your attention.”

* Read Tom Davis’ book, Fields of the Fatherless: Discover the Joy of Compassionate Living (2008).

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

The strength to get up: Lessons I’ve learned from sledding.

I love snow! When I was a kid we rode snowmobiles at an uncle’s farm one winter. I remember flying through the snow and hitting bumps that would knock whoever was in the back (usually me) into a drift, only to be found later when the person driving thought to turn around. For fun closer to home (and closer to the emergency room), there was a hill in my home town that was THE BEST sledding hill in town . . . or as the locals called it, “The only hill in town.” One year, my brother Huey used all his savings and bought a toboggan for our winter fun. When the first snow arrived, the four of us loaded onto the freshly-waxed J-shaped sled for the ride of our lives. The design of the toboggan is unique with a curved front sadistically positioned so if you hit an object head-on instead of falling off the sled, the brother in front would slam forward and knock a kidney out. Any remaining brothers crashed into each other or were propelled off the sides at the speed of sound. Meanwhile, the toboggan quietly laughed as it leisurely meandered down the hill carrying One-Kidney Brother (who is slumped over and softly crying) down to the bottom of the hill. After assuring no limbs were lost, we got up and dust ourselves off. “Let’s do it again!” Together we pulled the long sled up the hill several more times until frost bite set in.

I’ve tried snow-skiing as a winter sport and even had Winter Olympic aspirations one year when I graduated from the “Bunny Hill” to the “Little Tot Hill.” I actually grew quite talented at down-hill skiing but, like much of my athleticism, I was a little weak in one or two areas that others considered critical to the sport: (1) A fear of heights made me cry like a little girl on the ride to the top of the mountain. (2) I couldn’t ski in a straight line. (3) I fell a lot. (4) I couldn’t keep my skis on. (5) I didn’t know how to stop.

When we lived in Wisconsin we often played in the snow with our daughters. We experienced horse-drawn carriage rides once a year, snuggled under big wool blankets, in sub-zero temperatures and warmed up with hot chocolate when it was over. The other days, we took our plastic sleds out on some big hills and usually wiped out once or twice before we hit the bottom. Sometimes I’d intentionally aim for a makeshift snow ramp and my daughters and I would lift into the air — only to come down again, hitting the ground even harder. Our girls would occasionally cry in fear on the way down but when we hit the bottom they’d smile and say, “Again!” So we’d dust the snow off, and walk back up hand-in-hand to do it again.

When our girls were ages two and four, my wife and I bundled them up for a fast sled ride at a nearby park. Our baby girls were wrapped tightly in snowsuits, and boots, hats, and scarves, and mittens, and hats, and scarves, and boots, eventually looking more wide than tall. Through the layers I could barely see their smiles: nervous, excited, yet trusting. The park we walked to had no hills, so I’d run pulling them as fast as I could, weaving back and forth to make the ride even faster and more exciting. I remember taking a sharp fast turn once and suddenly my load felt much lighter. Looking back I saw two pink snow suits with pink furry boots sticking out of a deep snow drift. I ran back to see if any limbs were missing and I heard a faint united cry from the depths of the snow bank: “Dad! Go again!”

You can’t play in the snow without the risk of falling and you can’t sled downhill without having to walk up the hill again. Little kids love sledding no matter how cold or dangerous. The innocent faith of someone so small to reach up for the hand extended and get up again and again after he or she has fallen is amazing. Out of breath, head hurting, and knees wobbling, the child hesitantly gets up . . . partly out of trust, but mostly for the joy of companionship. Hand-in-hand, the walk up the hill is worth the strain. And although the ride down might be a little frightening, the one you trust is in complete control. When you hit a bump or fall down hard (and you will), you will be okay. No matter how much you hurt, no matter how deep you’re buried, you are not alone. Reach up. The hand reaching down is what gives you the strength to rise. “Do you want to go again?” He asks.

If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand. (Psalm 37:24 MSG)
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. . . . Neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. (Romans 8:38 NLT)

Calvin G. Roso, Copyright January 2014

Blog on: Sunday rest on the worst of Mondays.

When I was in elementary school, Mom made the world’s best fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy for Sunday lunch. After filling ourselves so full we could barely walk, we hung around the house for the rest of the day. We played quiet games and whacked each other with soft sticks, because if we woke Dad from his Sunday nap we might soon experience the streets of gold our pastor preached about in church that morning.

Some Sundays we drove to visit old relatives who lied and told me how much I grew, just so they could pinch my cheeks. Escaping outside, my brothers and I played hide-and-seek in the barn, chased chickens, yelled at cows, climbed stacks of hay, and broke things. Aunt Sigred then served a meal bigger than Thanksgiving and Christmas combined. I spied mountains of meat and potatoes as I walked around the table, my hands grabbing toward a piece of freshly-baked bread. We were placed about the house in stiff chairs with the feast set before us on standing wooden trays. “You’d better eat it all — there’s starving kids in India!”

When evening came, we were filed into the dim living room — adults seated on couches and recliners and kids flung in the center of the floor on a large, round, hand-woven rug — to watch “The Ed Sullivan Show” on a black-and-white TV about the size of a small napkin. “Don’t sit too close, you’ll ruin your eyes!” Instead I walked into a land of blue skies, meadows, and moving waterfalls on a motion lamp atop the television. Later we were herded into the now darkened farmyard and piled in our car for the long ride home. From the front seat the quiet hush of my parents’ voices brought me comfort as the car edged down the highway. “Be still. Go to sleep.” Those Sunday night drives — four boys without a care squeezed in the back of Dad’s old Chevy — brought some of the deepest sleeps I have ever experienced.

The ease of Sunday replenished us for Monday. The Bible talks about a “Sabbath rest” similar to the rhythm of the Sunday worship, rest, and companionship that I experienced as a child. Sunday sets the pace for Monday. Monday through Friday need all the help they can get. I often cram too much into my week and then become hyper and frantic about things that don’t really matter. I forget that I can make choices for peace, rest, and worship each day. Yet, I’m only as busy as I choose to be. Gordon MacDonald suggests we gain rest as we carve “Sabbath moments” into each day. Monday through Friday can contain pieces of Sunday — of worship and rest — if I choose.

Each day of the week, busyness is expected and rewarded. Meanwhile, multi-tasking has made me inattentive and unfocused. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I can’t spare the time. God whispers, “Be still . . .” How will everything get done? “Be still and know . . . ,” is His quiet response. But the day is already spinning out of control! “Be still and know that I am God.” In the quiet hush of a Father’s voice comes comfort on the darkest day. His words bring the ease of Sunday to replenish me on Monday.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

*Gordon MacDonald, Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, 1986.

The carnival ride: What vomiting on others taught me about grace.

One sunny summer day when I was about ten years old, my brother Spartacus, a neighbor kid, and I walked to the town carnival. Upon arrival we arm-wrestled to see who would choose the first ride. After great embarrassment on my part, it was decided that the first ride for all of us (unknowingly, the last ride for me) would be the “Tilt-O-Whirl.” As we slid into the slick plastic whirly car, I carefully wedged myself in the middle spot so as to not fall out. One positive thing about The Whirl was that you got A LOT of time on the ride for only 25 cents. Perhaps one tiny, little, negative, thing was the spinning around again and again and again and again and again no matter how many times a little kid cried and screamed for it to end.

“Stop the machine! I’m gonna puke!”
Mr. Whirl Operator was NOT paid to listen.
So, I puked (i.e. lost my cookies big time) on Mr. Whirl Operator’s Whirl Machine.

A cool thing about the tilting PLUS the whirling was that at the end of it all there was no puke on me. Had it only been whirling and no titling I think, perhaps, things would have been different. Also, had I not been violently shaking my head from side-to-side during the whirling, perhaps a cookie or two that I had lost would have dropped onto my own lap. But, to my advantage, I not only shared my cookies with my companions, I gave them all away.

Now here’s the great thing — even though Spartacus and Neighbor Kid where covered in my “cookie dough,” they weren’t even a little bit upset. In spite of looking and smelling nasty, they rode all the rides that afternoon while my stomach and I were content to quietly watch from the curb. Later that afternoon, the three of us all walked home together laughing and whacking each other along the way. That day we had the time of our lives.

I’m older and wiser now and try avoid whirling of any kind. However, when traveling with teenagers last summer our group had to take a rough one and one-half hour ferry boat ride to get to our destination. About 20 minutes into the trip, my vertigo got the best of me and for the first time in nearly 30 years I threw up. There I was crumpled in front of a waste basket heaving in a near fetal position, too dizzy and weak to stand. One of our students, Sweet Kind Girl (not her real name), gently patted my back as I continued to heave into the basket for the next 20 minutes. Sweet Kind Girl told me later that it was all she could do to not get sick herself.

I’m sure these two stories have nothing in common other than vomit . . . vomit and grace. Grace: Grace to not take one’s self or others too seriously. Grace to smile and forgive and move on when someone has messed all over you. Grace to comfort another when the circumstances make you want to puke. Child-like grace. Christ-like grace. I’m thankful for grace.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

In my attempt to show kindness, I almost committed a drive-by.

My wife, Princess Bride, is very good at buying the right gifts for family members on birthdays and holidays. The reason she does such a great job is because she asks people what they would like beforehand. I don’t like to know ahead what people want because for me it takes the mystery and surprise out of giving. This is the reason why there’s usually an awkward silence after my gift is opened at a party. “Is everyone ready for some cake?” Princess Bride will then quickly ask to help save the day.

In my car there is a gift card for McDonalds that I never gave away. I bought it a few weeks ago when I noticed Traveling Homeless Guy waiting on a bench outside a restaurant. (I don’t often notice people other than myself, but on that particular day this guy stuck out.) While ordering food at McDonalds I noticed there were a few extra bucks in my pocket so I thought, “What better way to help the poor man than give him a gift card to McDonalds?”

As I slowed down to give him the card, I saw he had a sign that said “Help needed.”
“What do you need help with?” I asked.
“I’m trying to get to ——- place” he replied.
It suddenly occurred to me that he needed money more than a meal card so I sheepishly hid the card and handed him a small bill instead. “I hope this helps a little,” I said.
He said “God bless you” and it was over.

During our exchange, I made the same mistakes I often make in my attempts to help others: (1) I intended to give an easy gift — one that wouldn’t cost me much at all. (2) I assumed I knew what the man needed instead of first asking him how I could help. (3) Worst of all, I tried to give a gift that didn’t require an ounce of conversation or time on my part. I wanted to commit “drive-by” ministry by simply slowing down and wishing him a good day while tossing him my meager left-overs.

How much should a gift cost? C. S. Lewis says that true giving should always hurt the giver at least a little bit. In other words, a gift should cost me something; it should require an element of sacrifice on my part. Because one of the most precious things to me is time, maybe time is what I need to give more of. So was my drive-by better than no ministry at all? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that whenever Jesus met people’s needs, He took time. He spoke with them and He touched them. Jesus first met the person — and then He met the needs.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

*In his book Tangible, author Chris Sicks calls similar actions committed by Christians unwilling to stop and listen “drive-by evangelism.”


Tending Paradise: Why Monday doesn’t have to suck.

On the first day of school each fall, my teachers would have us draw a picture (lots of fun) or write an essay (not nearly as much fun) called “How I Spent My Summer.” We didn’t vacation when I was a kid, so while others were drawing paradise pictures of plane rides to Hawaii I was drawing pictures of my brothers and I playing in a landfill and whacking each other with blunt objects.

My dad took maybe a half-dozen vacations his entire life. Dad was a mechanic working twelve hour days, six days a week, and working for little thanks and even less pay. The way my memory has it, Dad wasn’t much of a complainer though. He worked because to him it was what a dad was supposed to do. And through his hard work, Dad earned a reputation as someone who was trustworthy, excellent in his craft, and pleasant to deal with.

Today I’m heading back to work after a lengthy vacation. Many others are also heading back to work or school today after the holidays. Holidays and vacations are great as long as I’m not misled into believing that I was created for them. Work was part of God’s plan for mankind since long before sin made this such a fallen and messed-up place to live. Work was part of what made Eden paradise because although Eden was perfect, it still needed tending. After Adam and Eve sinned, maybe what took the pleasure out of work was being separated from everlasting life just as much as it was being kicked out of Eden. Jesus came to restore life. He offered God’s original perspective — a perspective of life — for all which had become broken. When it came to work, Jesus didn’t tell people to quit working — instead He gave them God’s perspective for their work (e.g., stop cheating people; fish for men).

A number of years ago I read a book entitled Thank God It’s Monday by Wiiliam Diehl. The premise was that people wrongly think the low point of the week is the weekend and that the high point is Friday. In contrast, Diehl said, we were created to work. We were made for Monday.

If my Monday sucks, perhaps what I need is God’s perspective. My job is offering people hope and life — restoring Paradise — through my attitude, words and actions. Be it cleaning rat cages (done that), standing in an assembly line (done that, too), or teaching students (doing that), my job is restoring Paradise. I restore Paradise by making this world a little bit better for those around me through what I create. I restore Paradise by sincerely caring about everyone I encounter. Armed with this perspective, maybe I’ll draw a picture about my day when I get home tonight.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

Like a ten-year-old child, I want what I want when I want it.

When I was a kid I had a bit of a temper. Nothing extreme, just occasional outbursts of anger that I usually resolved by kicking a cat or banging my head against a wall. What initiated those ourbursts? Typically they were a by-product of either not getting my own way (I want what I want when I want it!) or not feeling good about myself as a person.

The other week I momentarily lost my temper while traveling with my family. It was a very long drive and we pulled off the road to order some food. I was tired, mind you. Random Food Worker Voice began taking our order over the intercom. I gave the order once and then Food Worker Voice asked me to repeat myself. (Incompetent.) I repeated the order. Voice then asked me to repeat myself again. (Idiot Worker Voice.) I then repeated myself more loudly adding just a little bit of a sarcasm to prove my point to the voice. The person then kindly thanked me and disconnected. Immediately my conscience (in the physical form of my wife and daughters) convicted me. “You were kind of rude to her!” they said.

I wanted to make excuses, but my family was right — I lost my temper and I was rude. Why did I act that way? Isn’t it my job as a Christ-follower to brighten, not darken, people’s days? But I had treated Random Food Worker like she was a voice instead of a person. It’s easier sometimes to be rude via intercoms or social media than face-to-face. In my busy, tired, self-centered, and sinful disposition, I forget that whoever I encounter online, on the phone, and/or in person is not simply a voice but a person.

Like a ten-year-old child, I might lose my temper. I want what I want when I want it. I want to define “random acts of kindness” to mean I can pick and choose when to be kind and who to be kind to. Although I want to be random, God isn’t asking me for random acts of kindness, He’s asking me to embody grace and kindness. After all, a kind word or deed might be the best way I can show someone else that God still cares.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

New Year’s Resolutioners beware: Don’t read today’s blog.

Even the good things I add to my schedule can potentially become time-suckers. Time-suckers are the things I waste time on — the things that after three hours I ask myself, “What have I done all day?” I’m not dissing rest; the Bible clearly emphasizes the importance of rest and Americans are often guilty of being much busier than we need to be. Giving into time-suckers, however, is not restful. Time-suckers can be more emotionally and mentally draining than a good day of labor. Simply put, time-suckers suck my life away. Donald Miller writes in Blue Like Jazz that the “greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time.”

When I was in college (a few years before the PC was released, let alone the distractions of Internet) television was my biggest time-sucker. These were the early years of Cable TV so one kid would pay for Cable at something like 18 bucks a month and then he’d splice and string wires out his dorm window to anyone who would like to share the expense (totally illegal, un-ethical, dishonest, and sinful). By the end of the first month of school, Cable Dude would have 126 wires running from his window and we’d each get Cable for a little over 14 cents a month. That 14 cents was well-spent on my part because I could sit for hours watching re-runs, first-runs, and never-should-have-been-run-the-first-place television shows. Cable TV made procrastination easier and procrastination put me on academic probation within two semesters. Cable TV wasn’t the problem: I was born with a sinful nature, so I’m a natural slacker.

Because I was born with a sinful nature, I cannot make myself better in any form or habit. I need God’s forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. And when it comes to goal-setting, my effort definitely needs God’s help. According to Mike Ashcroft, effective effort requires “remaining in a focused position for a length of time while depending on God’s ability to do in you what you cannot do for yourself.”

I quit making New Year’s Resolutions and goals a couple of years ago. I’m now starting my second year focusing on My One Word. The idea is I choose one word focusing on self-growth or improvement that goes beyond the surface but deep into my character. Then, I depend on God’s help to become a better, less self-centered person. That word becomes the lens through which I develop priorities and make daily, moment-by-moment, decisions. I like focusing on one word each year because it brings focus to my actions. The one word I choose gives me focus while God gives me strength and hope.

The 2014 word for me is “intentional.” Throughout each day, I plan to ask myself why I’m doing what I’m doing so I can eliminate the time-suckers. I’m not a naturally kind person so I hope, also, to become more intentional in showing God’s grace to others.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

Check it out: http://myoneword.org

I can’t believe I’m arguing with a five-year-old about why kids cry.

I saw a big kid picking on a smaller kid a few days ago. Ironically, Big Kid had been crying just a few minutes earlier when someone else had whacked him. I thought it was a good time to have an adult conversation with Big Kid about his childish behavior.

Me: “Why were you hitting him?”
Big Kid: “I wasn’t.”
Me: “Yes you were.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“Yes you were.”
“No I wasn’t.”
(It became obvious that this approach wasn’t working.)
Me: “How did you feel when someone hurt you earlier? I saw you crying.”
Big Kid: “I wasn’t crying.”
Me: “Yes you were. Why were you crying?”
“No I wasn’t.”
“Yes you were.”
“No I wasn’t.”

Although the conversation was getting nowhere fast, it made me think about the times I cried when I was Big Kid’s age. I’m not talking about when I cried from falling off my bicycle or from getting beat up by the neighbor girl. I’m talking about real tears: the empty and lonely times when I would cry myself to sleep.

I don’t remember why I cried myself to sleep back then; I guess I was afraid. As an adult, I’ve mastered the art of self-sufficiency so I don’t cry myself to sleep anymore. I’ve traded tears on the pillow for worrisome nights when I don’t sleep at all. Worrying about money, or house repairs, or career, or my own kids seems more rational . . . in some way more mature.

In my grown-up worries, I have heard God speak. I believe that in the midst of my worries the God of creation has every right to prove Himself, to get loud and display the history of His faithfulness, to get up in my face and argue that He has never left me alone. Yet God doesn’t argue. God speaks to me — not in an audible voice — in a whisper louder than sound itself. In the midst of my fears, God whispers a simple question of a Father to a child: “Do you trust me?”

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

Silly Sally and the tricycle: The long good-bye

Saying “good-bye” to relatives is awkward, especially if you like them. And the feeling after the good-bye is dull, almost numb, inside. When I was five years old, my mom, my three brothers, and I took a long trip to Rhode Island to see Mom’s relatives for an extended visit. It was a fun vacation when we met people with sharp accents just like Mom’s and got to do some cool stuff we couldn’t do back home. The visit was a long time ago but I remember making close friendships with these New England aunts (pronounced AWNTS), uncles and cousins.

On the morning when we were to return home, I needed some time alone to reflect. So, like any five-year-old too small for a big bike, I grabbed a tricycle and rode to a tranquil, scenic reflective spot. I could tell you that my five-year-old reflective spot looked down onto Fall River or Block Island Sound. . . . My reflective spot did look down. However, it looked down into an empty ravine filled with trash and, as rumor had it, rats the size of polar bears waiting to eat little kids alive. So there I sat. There I reflected.

My cousin Silly Sally (not her real name) must have been quietly reflecting right behind me. And, I gathered, she was going to miss me as much as I would miss her. I gathered this because the next thing I knew was a Silly Sally-sized foot gave my trike and I a swift push that sent us racing and plummeting to the child-eating rats below. I knew this was going to be the end of my life.

But, it wasn’t the end as I predicted. My brothers hurried to my rescue; Silly Sally apologized; and I got only a few scratches (probably from rat bites). What I do remember is this: Silly Sally’s parents comforted me with ice cream and 50 cents (which in the 1960s is like eight million dollars today). We then said our awkward good-byes and my family and I headed out. The eight million dollars in my pocket and the dull pain of loneliness kept me company during the 1,600 mile bus ride home.

As an adult, the feeling after the good-byes — both the good and bad ones — reminds me I was created for a companionship beyond this world. I’m pleased that heaven won’t include good-byes.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

Fair Maiden quietly spit up her Cheerios during the choir’s special song.

One of our first Christmases as parents was spent in Florida with my in-laws. We were to enjoy a Florida tradition on Sanibel Island: A simple, quiet Christmas Eve service on the beach. However, as young parents, to guarantee “simple and quiet” required a LOT of preparation. I’m big into preparation. In fact, I’m often guilty of missing the entire message of an event because I’m either preparing to attend or preparing to leave.

You can’t take a baby anywhere without a LOT of stuff: Crackers, cookies, Cheerios, raisins, Gold Fish crackers, apple sauce, bananas, bottles, teething rings, pacifier, face wipes, diapers, baby wipes, powder, plastic pants (both child-size and adult size), bibs, three clean sets of clothes (for both child and adult), special puppy toy, special kitty toy, special blanket, pajamas, play pen, stroller, crib, car seat — and this is just to step outside to check the mail.

The weather was perfect that evening. The sun was setting through the Palm trees. Seagulls flew overhead and porpoises calmly jumped in the nearby gulf. A small congregation quietly sat in the sand near the lighthouse while pastor and choir reverently waited on a makeshift stage to announce the birth of Christ. In this tranquil scene entered a beautiful young mother carrying a golden-haired baby girl. Alongside them was a father dragging a U-Haul packed with baby junk through sand dunes — occasionally ramming palm trees and knocking over small grandparents wearing Christmas sweaters.

We arrived at the service early in order to unpack, unload and arrange everything on our beach blanket. “Cheerios — check. Diapers — Check. Juice — [Silence.] Juice — [Still silence.]” We forgot the most important thing on the list!!! This was unthinkable!!! Our baby girl (Fair Maiden #1) couldn’t go ten minutes without juice. We knew we were too far from the house to go back so we would have to keep her distracted for nearly 40 minutes (40 minutes can seem like eternity to young parents). So we quietly, yet frantically, informed the grandparents, congregation, choir members and pastor “WHATEVER YOU SAY, DON’T MENTION J – U – I – C – E.”

My wife and I were on edge during the Christmas hymns. Fair Maiden quietly ate her Cheerios. I was looking for a pacifier during the pastor’s message. Fair Maiden quietly ate her Gold Fish crackers. The choir sang a special song. I was looking for diapers. Fair Maiden quietly spit up her Cheerios and Gold Fish crackers. The service was coming to a close and the congregation was asked to participate in a responsive reading of the Christmas Story from the Bible. In ten minutes all would be fine as long as nobody mentioned J – U – I – C – E.

Pastor: “There came wise men from the East to Jerusalem saying . . . ”
Congregation: “Where is He that is born, the King of the Jews?”
Fair Maiden: “Juice?”

Calvin G. Roso © December 2013


My brother would make irreverent motions and farting sounds during the best Christmas songs.

Back in THE DAY, kids of all ages and abilities were forced to be part of the church Christmas pageant. Even if the kid could neither sing nor act, or was in the habit of wetting him or herself in public, he or she was still part of the pageant. And, of course, being part of the pageant meant endless days and hours of practice.

For four Saturdays from what seemed like six a.m. until eleven p.m. each time, 39 kids from our little church sat in hard seats, legs dangling to reach the floor, yelling and whacking each other until their individual times came to go on stage. Sitting in church for endless hours would have been unbearable except I got to sit next to my brother Spartacus which was hilarious because he would always make irreverent motions and farting sounds during the best Christmas songs (at least I think they were sounds). Although the director would call him out when being inappropriate, I’m convinced Spartacus’ mischievous smile and sense of humor made God Himself chuckle occasionally.

Most kids were stuck in the choir because back in THE DAY churches didn’t have sound systems so the audience couldn’t hear how poorly we sang and that most of us weren’t even singing the right song. We were also far enough back on the stage that people couldn’t see us wet ourselves. The best roles were The Holy Family (reserved for either upper class men who were nearing nine or ten years old, or for the pastor’s kids). Second best was to be a shepherd, angel, or wise man. I’m convinced the pageant director chose the second-best roles with a sense of irony or wishful thinking, which is why my brother and I, along with Larry, were asked to be wise men that year.

Now I was clueless about who the wise men even were in the story. I thought they were just rich shepherds with camels. “What, no shepherd’s staff to hit people with? What kind of outfit is this?” This was back in THE DAY when church and school kids weren’t asked the question, “Do you know what that means?” by parents or teachers. Good grief, if parents and teachers don’t know what it means, how do they expect an eight-year-old to know? The only question I was asked when I got home from practice was, “Did you wet yourself on stage again?”

Finally the night came for parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles and other old people I didn’t know, to come see the big production. I remember screwing up my lines, laughing at other kids who screwed up their lines, and getting a paper sack full of candy when it was all over. The paper sack always included home made popcorn balls because they took up a lot of space and made the sack look more full than it really was.

The beauty of the pageant was not how talented we were. In fact, the talented ones were hardly even noticed by the audience. What the audience did notice were the kids who screwed up their lines and wet themselves on stage. The awkward kids were the biggest hit of the show. The beauty of the Christmas pageant seemed to tell us that even God loved the misfit. And although I really sucked as a wise man, when it was all over I got handed a paper sack of candy just like everyone else. On the ride home I asked my parents if they liked the program. My dad smiled and said we should have been named “the three wise guys” instead.

Calvin G. Roso © December 2013