Category Archives: Us

A Change is Gonna Come

bobby posting:

A few months ago, I came across a statement that went something like this:  if you can’t remember the last time you changed your mind about anything significant, than perhaps you’re not willing to grow.  About a month after I read that little nugget, a group of guys posed this question to me:  how will the way you live your life look different five years from now?  Needless to say, the idea of change has been cycling through me like Lance on a climb.  I had no desire to become some old, crusty curmudgeon, stuck in my ways to the bitter end.  I wanted to grow.  And if you know anything about our God, if you admit to being willing to be stretched, well he answers that kind of prayer.  Gladly.  Certainly.  2011 has since, certainly been a year of growth.  Here’s just one of the changes I believe is coming out of me.  At least, I sure hope it is.

– –

In 2004, I made what I considered to be one of the wisest decisions of my young life.  I decided to move in with three of my best friends into a nice little, apartment right off campus.  The ViaChicago boys all living under the same roof for the first…and last…time.  Four solid Christian men together, constantly pushing each other further down the road to love and servanthood.  Well, that’s what we all desired going into the experiment.  But that year was tough.  We were all going through difficult things in our personal lives and collectively had a hard time managing expectations for this unit living together…as one unit.

The hardest part, though, was managing conflict.  Because we were all “solid Christian men”, we felt the need to constantly correct each other.  We’d sit down and have “serious conversations” and poke and prod for the deeper err beneath the error.  Frankly, I hated it.  And I let it show.  All.  The.  Time.

On a scale of 1-10, my ability at dealing with conflict was somewhere between zero and zero point one.  I hate to admit failure, but I sucked at conflict management.  Terribly.  I’d shut down and roll my eyes and respond with sarcasm.  And that’s when I would actually respond.  Most of the times I’d do my best to avoid the conversations altogether.  I’d dart from conflict like a deer after a rifle shot.  There’s a certain story that about me and a 2-on-2 basketball game and a shove and an f-bomb and me sprinting off into the night…but we don’t need to get into that.

As much as I hated being in the conflict itself, though, I hated even more the aftermath of the moment.  It just ate me alive.  The other three guys would come through the muck and mire with smiles on their muddy, ruddy faces.  They were somehow closer than they’d been before.  There’d be boyish laughter and manly hugs.  Hope would conquer heartache and new life would spring forth like a good rain.  For everyone.  Except me.

I’d sit there with my head tilted and eyes squinted, looking back and forth at these guys with a strange mixture of confusion and disgust.  How could these men enjoy each other’s company right now?  How could things magically be all good again?  How could anyone be for the better after conflict?

Conflict for me simply created more conflict.  It did not create anything of value.  And I couldn’t imagine a world in which anything was different.  I looked at my friends as inauthentic and insincere.  The thought that conflict had crafted them into something stronger, had chipped away and fashioned a faithfulness and fidelity among them was beyond my thought process.  Like a toddler with times tables, the concept was not only foreign, it seemed utterly useless.  Out of my reach.  Until recently.  Really recently, actually.  Like maybe a week ago recently.  A light bulb finally clicked.  Better late than never…

And that’s where we’ll go tomorrow.


ok, if i must…

2 months ago with his new pal


swaddled in the hospital. you had to be there.

One BIG Question / vol. 1 / Take 5

Hello! This is Amy Harrison, Bobby’s wife. I’m doing this little intro myself because Bobby is out of town and has no access to the internet, or his phone for that matter, for the next few days. And also because I’m “that kid” who likes to have things done on time, so I wanted to post my answers to this week’s BIG question before this week is out. Bobby actually told me to post on my blog rather than this one. I think he wants to draw some traffic to my stagnant for months and months blog. God bless him. But he’s not here and he was logged into VIA so here I am!

Amy posting (still):

#1 My pictures:  This is number one on my list, no question. For years and years, I’ve known this answer to that question. When I as 7 or 8, my Granny was in a tornado. And by in a tornado, I mean IN a tornado. It literally blew her house away, nothing left but the foundation. I remember going out there with my family after it happened. Some of her stuff was in her yard, some was in the neighbor’s tree, she was in the hospital. Since then, the things she missed most are her photos. She has four children, my dad the oldest, but only a handful of photos to verify their childhoods and memories. It’s just occurred to me that the only pictures I’ve seen of my dad growing up (save a few) are all school or other professional shots. I would love to see my dad hanging out with his buds in the ’60s (I’m picturing Sandlot-style) or dressed up to see Rocky Horror. Or my grandmother as a young woman, stylish no doubt. How many memories would I lose if I didn’t have my pictures to take me back? So, whether it’s Bob’s laptop, a few albums, or my frames around the house, I’ll be going back in.

#2 My wedding rings: I don’t wear much jewelry. Yes, I have been known to wear giant earrings (I have the photos to prove it), but on a day to day basis I’m pretty simple. But, I always wear my wedding rings. Bobby and I have been married for going on 6 years, but we dated for 6 years before that. In those early years, he learned how to bring the romance (woot woot!) and he learned that I had/have a severe fascination with stars. So, when it came time to really show me that he knew me, and loved me, and wanted to be with me, he designed a ring with a diamond constellation, my constellation. I’ve worn that ring proudly (along with my wedding band) since the day he proposed.  Now, you may be wondering, “if you love it so much and you never take it off, why do you have to go back in to save it?”. To answer that requires one more statement of my husband’s insight, creativity, and romance: for our 5th anniversary (the wooden anniversary), Bobby had rings made of Black Ironwood from Africa. It’s hard for me to spell out all of the significance, but it’s simple, natural, African, sturdy, faith like a tree, and most of all it’s ours. We’re wearing these for our 5th year. After September, I’d be going back in for my wooden ring.

#3 Bowser: It was many years before I knew that Bowser was something evil in Marioland. To me, this name is simply comfort, steadfastness, acceptance, fuzziness. My teddy bear. After the traumatic loss of my very first teddy bear (Barney, if you’re curious), Bowser came to me at the tender age of 4. For the next 17 years, I don’t remember a night without him. I’m sure it happened. Maybe even often, but I don’t remember them. My arm under his arms and that’s that. Yes, I took my fair amount of criticism. I haven’t forgotten that a certain member of VIA said he had no eyes and threw him across the floor (you know who you are!). To be fair, we were in college. And he didn’t know Bowser had a soul. Alas, not unlike Toy Story, there came a day when my arms were under someone else’s arms and Bowser’s job was done. Now he tells his story to the newer stuffed animals in Abe’s room. And every now and then, I hear him chuckle as Abe nibbles on his well-worn nose. (Ok, I got a little out of control there at the end, but you get it: I’d save Bowser!)

One BIG Question/vol. 1/House on Fire/Take #3

Zach Posting:

This has been an exceedingly hard post for me to write. Besides my #1 choice, there really isn’t anything I would need to save in a fire. Looking down at my #1 pick you will see that it is depressing in its own light. I would love to say that this is due to my own evolution above materialism, but that isn’t it at all. I love stuff. In fact, my two brooks brothers suits were actual contenders. I think what I cherish most is memories, but I rarely see memories through things. Memories only seem real to me when recounting them with friends, reliving them together. Enough happenstance… to the task at hand.

1/ My Computer

I warned you that it was depressing. I need to give some clarification though. It is not the actual machine, it is all of the files and data. First, my computer has all of my law school files on it. We are talking about hundreds maybe even thousands of hours of work lost. It is so bad that I had a recurring nightmare during my first law school finals week that someone tried to mug me for my computer. In the dream, I always decided to try and fight the guy off, but let’s be honest, I am not a fighter. Black eye and no notes for a law school final…at least I wasn’t in my underwear.

Picking a computer is also slightly cheating because it includes all of my photographs and music. All of Bobby’s famous annual mixed CDs are stored on that piece of metal. The jazz CDs that I listened to when first learning to play the saxophone. All the photographs from my trip through Europe before law school, the family vacation in Mexico (Is that my mom doing a tequilla shot?), etc.

2/ Saxophone

Even though I never play the damn thing, it is still a reminder of who I was. It reminds me of my carefree days where I did not care about ‘changing the world,’ but simply wanted to live and have fun. Sounds great now that I think about it. Back then, my saxophone was an escape. The routine of scales and exercises served to turn off my overactive brain and to just be still. The classical music reminded me of the beauty in practicing towards perfection. The jazz enabled me to let go. If I held on to the chords or the progressions than I would get lost. If I just allowed myself to listen to the music then I could communicate emotion and thought that I could not express or understand if I tried. The samba music a symbol of love & passion for life. Clearly I need to start playing again

3/ My Bible

Got you. You were all thinking this was some pat Christianese answer. I don’t care about the actual book though it has been there for some very tough times. I can buy a new bible for $15 at the local bookstore. My bible is just where I keep the few old photographs that I don’t have on my computer. (1) a picture of me at age four kneeling in front of my grandfather’s footstool and learning how to play poker (he ended up stealing my allowance this way until I was 15). My grandfather, by the way, is the one that taught me to be an obnoxious winner by singing the same song-“bringing in the sheaves”-every time he won a large hand. (2) A picture of my sister and I making thanksgiving pie. IE me peeling apples, and my sister rolling dough. (3) A picture of my first and only attempt to surf. Luckily it is a picture of me on the beach carrying a surf board, and not the countless pictures my Mom probably has of me eating sand. I was not very good. (4) A picture of my first set of campers as a counselor at camp Sambica. I, and 12 1st grade boys, are giving free tickets to the gun show.


Perhaps I am more sentimental than I thought.

Climbing Trees on Hamlin Street

bobby posting:

I just finished up watching a movie about the life and love of John Keats, one of the great Romantic poets.  Perhaps the greatest.  The movie, Bright Star, was a period piece filled with sappy dialogue, frilly clothes, and looks of longing.  Nonetheless, I found myself really enjoying the slow pace.  The beautiful cinematography.  And the poetry.  Spoken, off an on, all throughout the film.  You see, I used to greatly define myself as a poet.  Poet first.  Writer second.  The tide has turned greatly over the past several years.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I even wrote a poem.  But I can remember the last poem I wrote that I really enjoyed.

Adam had written several poems.  He got the itch and was beginning to finally, deeply scratch.  In fact, he was in the process of fully investing and dedicating himself to the craft.  Creative Writing classes and graduate classes were in the discussion, potentially in the works.  He knew I’d written poetry all thru high school and that it was something I greatly valued.  Adam asked me to read his poetry and get back to him.

While sitting in class one day, I wrote this response.  Of course, it was a poem.  Enjoy.

Climbing Trees on Hamlin Street

Your poems are tight.
Carefully constructed creations,
Cannons fired with the supreme knowledge
Of definitions and commas.

While your rhyme pattern
Has the jingle-jangle-jitter
Of a three-piece garage band,
Or a man walking with a top hat, a limp and a cane,
Your victories lie in your words.

Bit pieces that bite.
Marks on readers hearts that they happily share
With the reckless joy of a boy and his battle scars
[Left arm, 2 inches, in the shape of a J (upper case, of course)
from a stick fight with Timothy ;
Right ankle, a semi-circle, circumference: 1.7 inches,
pet dog incorrectly named Precious; we had to get rid of her]

Let me take that rhyme, or lack thereof,
And show me a painting
(but let it be all circles, perpendicular lines, and symbolism)
Hear me a song
(but let it skip on the record player like a girl learning to dance,
standing on her father’s feet but slipping every off beat)

Yes. Let me take those words
Those architectural masterpieces:
Hamlin’s Trees,
Jack’s Beanstalk,
Heaven’s Ladder.

Prayer’s role in finding the perfect spouse

Wilco – “Lookin’ For A Love” (Neil Young cover)

Zach Posting:

I am a Christian who attempts to allow God to influence, guide or even control all of my major life decisions. The hardest of these to give over to him has been family. Especially when it comes to dating, and the hope of someday getting married and starting my own family. I will leave children, and how to let God lead me as a father for another day, and a wiser author.

Far too many books have been written on Christian dating, courtship, marriage, sex, and all the combinations of the above. So far, none of them seem like a real answer on finding the balance between trusting God, listening for his guidance, and feeling free to follow your own heart. The entire topic is too broad, so today, I focus only on the concept of prayer. What role should prayer play in my decision of who to date, who to marry?

Some say that God is love, and all that matters is whether you love the person. IE if you get that tingly feeling than go for it. This theory leaves the definition of love to poets, movies, and occasionally, scholars.

Others advocate the one simple iron-clad rule: they just have to be a Christian. The only catch, you have to figure out what it means to be a Christian.

Takes us to theory three. Only rule: God must be their number one priority.

Finally, a couple must both love God, and have the same purpose/mission for life.

Now come the prayer theories:

Unromantic Approach: Pray about the qualities/characteristics you should look for in a spouse. Make a checklist. Grade them. What? She scored an 87/100!!! Let’s go ring shopping.

Romantic Approach: Pray for God to point out a single person. God gives you the target? Go in barrels blazing.

Person by Person: Trust the judgment of your friends, mentors, or online dating service. Once you have that gold-star recommendation. Pray to see if that person is a good fit, and go for it.

Smack on the back of the head: Don’t worry about figuring out the right person through prayer. Rely on the instincts God has given you, and trust that he will smack you upside the back of your head if you are going for the wrong person.

All of these theories have benefits. All of them, of course, come with some amazing story that led to a 50 year marriage filled with love, blessings, and adventure. All of them also have crazy stories of heartbreak and destruction. So I leave it to the audience of Via Chicago…What is the answer?

Lovebirds… Send us your winning strategy.

Heartbroken… Tell us which strategies to ban for all eternity

Single and looking? – Give us some market research on what is working now.

Chicago Blizzard of 2011

Zach Posting:

This is partially a response to Bobby’s post on the Siberia Winter. Normally, I would yell at Bobby for ever complaining about a 62 degree day in the middle of winter. I am one of the few that has never grown accustomed to Chicago winters. I simply have to escape for a week each winter. It is necessary for survival.

On the other hand, I absolutely loved the Blizzard of 2011. First, I got a break from an unending stream of work. Classes were canceled and I had no choice, but to stay at home and rest. Instead I had a wonderful low key night with friends playing Monopoly. I felt like a child celebrating his first snow day.

The next day is what Chicagoans always fear. The terrible commutes, the dirty snow, hours of shoveling etc. This day, however, was different. I woke up and grabbed the shovel. The cold air in my lungs mixed with the heat of sweat as I shoveled the walk felt wonderful. It was my first form of exercise in weeks.

An hour later my roommate Matt came out and we spent the next couple hours shoveling side by side in silence. It was very peaceful. More than that, I felt a large sense of community. Families all down the street grabbed their shovels and worked side by side. An elderly woman on cross country skis briefly stopped to talk about the weather and what to do about cars. A couple of girls from down the street even stopped to have me take their picture. Something about the storm drew people together.

This morning, however, I woke up to the brutal reality. The grey snow. Ice attaching my car’s tires to the street. And the fear that someone will take the parking spot that took me 3+ hours to dig out. The parking spot fiasco has creating a huge stir in Chicago to the point where Mayor Daily issued a statement that this year people are allowed to call “dibs” on spots they have shoveled out with lawn chairs and trash cans. I can only hope that my laundry basket will be enough.

I guess the kumbaya moment can only last so long.