Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Selection

First and foremost, Cathy and I are having a great time with Chickie and Zoodle this week. C.Beth just dropped them off and went to San Diego.

Not really! We are thoroughly enjoying all three and sorry that The Engineer couldn't be here also.

Today, for your reading enjoyment, I encourage you to exercise your mouse and head on over to another blog for your Saturday Selection.

I was glued to my screen the very first time I read some of Chris Bowers' writing. I tell stories. Chris creates! Get ready to stretch your thinking and catch a word or two of life wisdom along the way.

AND I'll see you back here tomorrow!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Never-ending Season

Usually discussion about a never-ending season has something to do with a sports team that wishes the season would end -- but it never seems to.

Let's flip that description over for a moment. What about a growing season that just goes on and on, producing fruit constantly? If the purpose of a fruit tree is to bear fruit, wouldn't it be wonderful if it always bore fruit without and off season?

I never started this week out with an intention to write every day about this subject. If you remember, I just told a frustrating story about a faucet repair that was giving me trouble.

Here I am on Friday still writing about wise life investments. Why? Primarily because of some of the great comments I have received in response. Thank you!

I close this topic (for now) by telling you something I deeply believe...

For we are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

A masterpiece doesn't lose value as it grows older. In fact, it's just the opposite. A major retirement community in my state was once named as one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. Here was a place where a person retired in order to live "the good life." Golf, tennis, concerts, great food -- after all, wasn't that why they worked all those years -- to end up here? But, people who decide that a life of value to others is over quickly lose a reason to live.

A masterpiece isn't limited in value because it is young. I have a very special work of art framed on my office wall. Some people might wonder why I would frame a finger-painting obviously done by a child. The answer is simple. The artist -- Chickie -- is, to me, a masterpiece. That piece in my private collection is the very first work of art I received from one of my grandchildren.

The value of a masterpiece isn't diminished because of human limitations. If it is, let's remove the aural memory of Beethoven's music playing in our minds.

Looking back over the past few days, no one who reads this would question the "masterpiece" label for Michael Jordan on a basketball floor. However, my grandmother was similarly a masterpiece. So was Virginia.

So are you.

Full of value and designed by the Master Designer, we are given the responsibility to decide every day: Will I waste my existence?

Or will I yield myself as one completely available to the purposes of the Artist?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Season Of A Lifetime

Literally. Today, another story about someone who used her "off season" well.

Virginia was a simple woman in many ways. She raised her four children and took care of her husband Tom. They had a son who needed special encouragement and she provided that until the day she died.

I first got to know Virginia as part of our church. She volunteered in some of our Children's Ministries. This quiet, unassuming lady was stable and faithful. She knew how to express concerns without complaining. She had a winsome smile and regularly encouraged those around her.

Long after that time in life when many people focus only upon themselves, Virginia put her talents to work. At some point she had learned to "stamp" cards. "Stamp cards?" you ask. "You mean put stamps on them before they are placed in the mail?"

No. Stamping cards is a simple as taking nice card stock and using specialized stamps and ink to create beautiful, handmade greeting cards.

Virginia's love was shared by one or two ladies at our church. Soon, an entire "Women's Card Ministry" was born. A number of ladies of various ages began congregating once a month and creating encouragement cards for people who need them. The cards are often accompanied with personal prayer for the recipient.

One day several years ago I stopped by Virginia's house to check on her because of a family need. It was about two weeks before Valentine's Day. Virginia, who could have been fretting and grieving at the time, was at her table creating personalized Valentines. Stacks of them.

"What are you working on, Virginia?" I inquired.

She replied, "The people in the nursing home nearby are usually forgotten on days like Valentine's Day. I'm making each of them a little card that will be placed on their food tray at lunch. They need to know they are special."

Virginia was well into her seventies when that conversation took place. She passed away last year.

She stayed active helping people know "they are special" until the very end.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In Season Every Season

"Off season." That has been our topic the past few days. How do we use the "off" times to prepare for the "on" times? Today and tomorrow, I want to share a couple of stories that mean a lot to me.

The first is about my maternal grandmother. "Grandmommy" when we were young was simply called "grandmother" by our teens. Grandmother had been a fairly young widow with five children. Their family moved to the mountains of New Mexico to carve out a life in the latter part of our nation's "Great Depression". That rugged land was made it hard to produce enough for a livelihood when a husband was working. For a single mother, it was beyond difficult.

When I was about five, our family moved to a small farm a short distance from the town where I was born. The land offered enough size to move a tiny house trailer there for grandmother. That relationship was relatively healthy, but I recall the resentment some of the family -- including me -- developed toward her.

There were little things like her taking vacation trips with us in the family car. If she wasn't there, I, the oldest of four children, got to sit in the front passenger seat with my mom in the middle next to dad. If grandmother came along, I had to sit in the back with my siblings. That really made me angry! I similarly lost "my" seat at the table when she ate with us.

The grievance I remember most, though, was that grandmother always seemed to be sick. She was one of those people who told you how badly she felt. To us as kids, she complained a lot. We had absolutely no compassion and I'm sure she could hear our "secret" cynical remarks.

Grandmother passed away -- at age ninety -- about twenty years ago. During her last years, severe senility stole much of her mental awareness. Long after she was past meaningful communication, I began to learn something about the significance of life -- even when the the world might think a person's usefulness is worn out.

What I discovered applied very directly to me (and, I think, to you!). I'm grateful that someone finally taught me that we go through life standing on other people's shoulders.

That little lady whom I often wished would just go away had a significant impact on me in at least two ways. First, she loved to learn. At least partially, she influenced my decision to get some education.

Second, she prayed for me. (Believe me, I needed it! Smile.)

It goes much deeper than that. All the time I was griping about her presence, talking about her behind her back and seeing no value for her, she was praying. She hoped something for me that I didn't hope for myself.

I am now certain that her prayers started before I was born. And continued until she lost the conscious will to pray. In season, off season, every season.

When I get to heaven, I'm going to thank her.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Controlled (?) Chaos

I begin today with a word of gratitude that I live in this country. As we inaugurate a new President, I am reminded that much of the world has never understood how rivals can passionately vie for a chance to lead a nation, then stand together and move forward after the election is over. May our new leader experience wisdom, courage and grace as he dons the mantle.

Yesterday's post, while not evoking the highest number of comments I have received, certainly brought out the greatest collective depth in the comments section.
Scriptor, your transparent self-revelation left me with a sense of profound joy. The way you "chewed on" my thoughts, then formulated your response was -- to me -- a high honor.
Beautiful daughter Becki, I am -- as always -- touched by your passion for those things you care about. In this case, it's your deep desire to help kids who might otherwise be overlooked. Thank you for sacrificing to do it.
Dina, your personal insight that blogging is somewhat your "off season" was a sort of revelation. I, too, find that blogging sharpens my mind in a way I find both enjoyable and stimulating. It helps me focus on the most important things as I chase through life.
Rachel, your view that "I can't narrow myself down to which one thing would count as 'on'... it's all life... it's all connected" is a reflection that I have long related to. I love to think of the church as a living organism and not an organization. My personal life seems to fit in that same model.

Now, the meaning behind today's title. Cathy and I drove 3 hours to Phoenix yesterday to pick up our daughter C. Beth and grandchildren Chickie and Zoodle. The simple lunch with them and a life-long friend, along with the "3 hour" return trip, took about 6 hours.

Still another 3 hours have passed since we arrived back home. Whew! So far we have played dress up and horsey rides, along with toys and books. We have eaten, fed, cleaned, fed, cleaned, changed, cleaned (still toys all over the floor), and -- finally -- kissed good night.

I'm off to bed. I get about 7 1/2 hours of "off season" and I don't have an action plan for it.

I'm exhausted!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Off Season

Down time. Time away from life's center stage. That's really what we were discussing yesterday when we considered my Lessons From A Faucet.

Burned in my memory is a basketball game. And not just any old game!

It was 1993. The team I loved, indeed the team I had followed since 1969 -- The Phoenix Suns -- were in the NBA Finals. Against the seemingly unbeatable Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Having lived in Phoenix for a number of years, I was able to occasionally attend a game. Sometimes a friend would call with tickets. One Sunday I received such a call right after church. The Suns were playing a matinee game and my friend Richard was given his company's tickets. On the floor! "Can you come?" he asked. I spent the afternoon in basketball bliss.

Most of the time, I had to settle for watching the team on television or listening on the radio. My early years in Yuma, coverage was quite limited. Our distance from Phoenix was enough so that most of what I got was in the newspaper the day after each game.

When the Suns made the Finals in 1993, I was ecstatic. On the Sunday before the series started, a lady approached me at church... "My husband has tickets to Game One on Wednesday night and I can't go. Would you like to go with him?" Was she kidding?

When we got to the arena that night, our seats were just a few rows from the floor and right behind the Chicago bench. The seat gave me a vantage point and left me with an impression significant enough to still think about it. Long after I got over the letdown of the Suns' loss that night (and ultimately of the series), I still remember Michael Jordan pulling up for jump shots.

The nickname "Air" was well-deserved, I discovered. It seemed as if he was at the vertical apex of his jump (and other players were succumbing to gravity) when suddenly he would rise several more inches from the floor. As I think about it, it's odd that you couldn't really see the full effect of his vertical leap unless you were watching the summit at eye level. We were! What a mental picture it left me!

You and I know that MJ didn't achieve that leaping ability by showing up at the court that night and playing ball. He gained it an exercise at a time in the weight room and grew it on the practice floor and running track. During the off season. Over many years.

I made a decision long ago that I wanted to become a better leader. I discovered that good leaders maintain certain disciplines during their "off seasons." If the training regimen for an athlete is primarily physical, for a leader it's primarily mental. Both endeavors also require emotional discipline.

Every person has a certain factory-installed raw talent. Much of where it gets us depends significantly on what we do in our off season?

When is your off season? How are you using it?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lessons From A Faucet

I stink when it comes to most repairs.

That's a bit hard to admit sometimes. My dad was skilled with his hands. Tight finances and a general awareness that he could fix most of the things around us meant that we almost never used outside people for repairs. My younger brother is pretty much like dad. Most of the time he does his own repair work. His job pays pretty well, but he does it because he can and would rather save the money for something else.

So here I am today attempting to put a repair kit in a kitchen faucet. The instructions in the package were simple. Well, maybe they are simple for someone else. When I got stuck in the middle of the job with the water off throughout the house, I went online and looked up a more detailed set of instructions. I wasn't encouraged when the writer described the job as "takes only a few minutes." Grrrr.

After much frustration, about an hour invested and the kit only partially installed, I put the whole thing back together enough to turn on the water and told Cathy I need a repairman to do it right.

The interesting thing is that I can do most of my own computer repairs. I have some confidence in my ability to install both hardware and software. I actually find that work relaxing rather than draining.

But the next time the faucet drips...PLEASE remind we what I wrote!

Here's a question for you. What are some of those things you would rather do yourself? What are some you would rather pay someone else to do?