My Little Pink “Olaf” Shirt

I think the survival of Kmart and Sears depends largely on them fixing their customer service. Why do I think this you ask? It’s all because of a little pink “Olaf” shirt.

Last night I took my toddler into Sears to exchange her “Olaf” shirt for a larger size. It was a gift, so we did not have the receipt but the tag on the shirt said “Sears.com” on it. I figured we could make something happen because the shirt was brand new.

Entering through the “tool” entrance I was overwhelmed by Craftsmen tools. I must admit Sears’ tool brand is still one of the best out there. Christy and I were on a mission, though and we didn’t stop to look at the tools.

A short walk later we made it to the children’s section. There we were accosted by the world of Frozen. I left Christy glued to one display while I browsed looking for her shirt. Shortly I was able to ask a salesgirl to help me find the shirt which she was willing to do. She looked for a few minutes before walking to a different section to ask for help. A minute later this original girl came back to tell me to go to the Kiosk (not in the children’s section) to get help.

I spent the next several minutes ungluing Christy from the display to go down to the kiosk where two people were standing (without customers). I would have loved for them to come to me to help. Arriving at the kiosk I explained that I simply wanted a bigger size or a return. The girl scanned the shirt and after about four minutes of typing told me they didn’t have it in the store. She asked another guy standing there for help to figure it out. He said they didn’t carry that shirt and could not return it for me.

While talking to me this guy saw a manager and he went over to ask if they could return this shirt (which said “Sears” on it). The manager didn’t come over to look but sent him back to say “no” and tell me to go to Kmart.

At this point I was a little frustrated. Why could Sears not help me with a shirt that said “Sears” on it? I knew Sears owned Kmart but I really did not want to go to Kmart because giant nearly empty department stores are kind of eerie. Finally I swallowed my pride and decided to head over to Kmart.

I walked in the giant entrance to hear an almost silent store. There were a couple dozen cars in the parking lot but the store was built for hundreds of people. I think I could barely hear music in the background. To the far right I could see giant curtains blocking off what once had been the grocery section.

I made a quick survey of the kids clothing section and I did not see a single piece of “Frozen” merchandise. So I made my way to the customer service counter.

The “customer service” counter was a hodgepodge area. There were lottery tickets, carts and carts of returns and mountains of things marked as layaway. There was a hard working lady named “Deb” there who appeared to be the shift manager as well.

In front of me was a short dour faced woman. She waited for five minutes for Deb to complete some long transaction on an ancient computer. Finally handing out a three foot pile of receipts Deb finished with the dour-faced lady.

Next in line before me was a nice little lady and a stocky husband who leaned heavily on the rail. They simply asked for their layaway. Deb set out looking behind the counter for it. Five minutes later she decided it wasn’t there so she grabbed some keys and left. The old photography studio had been cleared out and apparently used for layaway. Deb disappeared into those rooms for ten more minutes. Finally she returned to the counter and asked the nice lady if she had received a confirmation that her order was there. The lady sheepishly replied that she had not. Deb politely asked the lady to come back after she had received confirmation.

Finally getting to me Deb attempted to scan “Olaf” with no success. Then she typed the tag code into her scanner with no success. Then she suggested I try returning the shirt to another store. I pointed out that it was a sears shirt and I had already been to sears, I was out of options. She then tried to look up the shirt online but she couldn’t find it there either.

Finally she apologized and said she couldn’t help me either. I left Kmart with “Olaf” still tucked in a little bag and wishing someone could help me out.

Reflecting on yesterday I realize that some people did try to help but the culture of both stores was not focused on customer service. Neither of the stores were willing to take ownership of the problem. They simply passed the buck. I can’t fault them for not being able to find the shirt in their systems but I would have liked to run into someone with the authority and willingness to own my satisfaction. Everyone was working to follow the rules of their stores but that left me, a sincere customer frustrated by both stores.

Why I’m Feeling Catholic Today

Feeling a little Catholic

I feel a little bit Catholic preparing my message for Sunday. I get to preach on “The Magnificant” out of Luke 1:46-55. This is the song sung by Mary after she encounters her pregnant older cousin Elizabeth (Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist). The more I study the Biblical passages the more I resonate with my Catholic brothers’ love for Mary. Let me share some of what I learned about Mary from just the first chapter of Luke.

Mary was stronger then every other man in the Bible

“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” (Lk. 1:28)

Every single waking encounter between an angel and a man in the Bible involves the man begging for his life. Check it out, the men of the Bible are all scared nearly senseless when an angel appears and yet Mary is more troubled by the angel’s words than his presence. Either Mary’s angel appeared differently to Mary or she had a certain strength missing in some of the Biblical men. (Or the angel’s words were more terrifying then his presence?)

Mary was honest and open

“‘How can this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'” (Luke 1:34)

The angel had just shared an overwhelming prophecy with Mary and she still had the presence of mind to ask a question. According to the angel, Mary was favored by God, and pregnant with a son would would be called God’s son and become a king. Mary bravely and immediately asks the most obvious question. This might look like doubt, but in reality it was honesty for which Mary was rewarded.

God was willing to give Mary the answers she needed

“The angel answered, ‘The Holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth montth. For nothing is impossible with God.'” (Luke 1:35-37)

The angel’s reply to Mary’s question was not a rebuke but a proof. The angel first explains something which sounds like science fiction. Then he gives Mary a chance to see physical proof ahead of time that nothing is iimpossible with God.

Mary was obedient and humble

“‘I am the Lord’s servant’ Mary answered, ‘May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38).

Mary had been promised a glorious future but a messy present. She was not even married yet and God wanted her to bear a child? This pregnancy would shame her in the community and likely make her impending marriage to Joseph fall apart. Mary must have known all these things, yet she was able to respond with surprising humility and trust.

Conclusion (for now)

I admire Mary’s honesty in the face of the difficulty of her future. I almost envy her strength stand in the presence of an angel and respond with grace an humility. I’m going to keep studying and I’ll share here what I learn.

 

Mars Hill and the other Mars Hill

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I just read a fantastic article about Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. I never realized the connection between the stories of the two churches and pastors. Check out the blog out here, it’s well worth the read.

Eric’s quote of Paul stands as a warning to every Pastor and every Christian at the end of his blog:

“Watch your life and doctrine closely.”

My fight with cynicism

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In the middle of the wedding I officiated today I received an email saying two friends of mine were filing for divorce. Thankfully my iPad was in the office so I didn’t find out until after the pictures. It’s ironic how even in a truly joy-full moment I am reminded of how everything can go south.

A cynical pastor

Sometimes I have to fight being cynical as a pastor. I go to a wedding rejoicing for a couple while thinking about the bad statistics on divorce. I love dancing at the reception but I look around knowing that behind happy facesthere are couples considering divorce and other bad situations. I see beautiful little girls and handsome boys but I worry about them growing in a sinful world. Maybe this is cynicism. Maybe it’s reality.

My conversation with God.

While watching the Bride and Groom have their first dance I asked God, “What do you want me to see here?”

He replied, “You can be an agent healing and change for these people.”

Then I said, “I am so broken myself.”

God replied with this verse:

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -I Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)

Conclusion

I need to remember that divorce and sin are realities. My job, however, is to do the best I can to let God do His work through me. God is the One healing and changing lives. My job is not to judge or be cynical but to follow God.

 

 

 

Wheaton’s Gay, Celibate Christian

Julie Rodgers
Julie Rodgers

Wheaton has a gay, celibate Christian on staff. This idea arrested my attention for fifteen minutes of reading and a few hours of reflection. Feel free to read it for yourself here.

My Thoughts

I admire Julie for her honesty and faithfulness. She shared that she has tried for a decade to change here orientation and failed. She still confesses that homosexual actions are sin but she has chosen to accept her feelings. Therefore she lives a celibate, single, life ebracing what she feels yet remaining faithful to what she confesses.

Some people in the article criticize her for having too small a view of God’s ability to change her. I have to say that I haven’t spent a decade trying to change my sexual orientation so I can’t judge her on that. I have spent two and a half decades trying to grow as a believer and it is maddening to face my sin nature still day in and day out.

I really like that Julie emphasizes that she sees her orientation as part of her identity but not the most important part. She is first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ. This is a lesson I and everyone I know can learn a lot from.

Your thoughts?

If you haven’t read the article, please do here. Now, what are your thoughts on Wheaton’s gay, celibate Christian?