Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Selection

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's time once again for a day of rest from this page. Each week I feature a blog I have been reading and enjoy.

One of the early followers of Dwell & Cultivate is Rachel Cotterill. Her blog is but one part of her writing adventure. You will discover that she loves to travel and is sometimes tapped to write about it for others. She is also in the process of writing a novel. I look forward to the day that I will cruise into Barnes and Noble or click over to amazon and purchase one of her books!

More than anything, Rachel's thoughtful responses have often encouraged -- and sometimes challenged -- me. Check her out today!

Friday, February 13, 2009

What Are Friends For, Anyway?

My mom has the gift of mercy. She pours her life into helping people in need. Her idea of helping is very hands-on. If one of the people in her Senior Adult park needs a ride, a listening ear, or a prayer -- she's there! That was the scene a few years back when we visited mom in Albuquerque.

Mom told us about a lady in her park named Margaret. Margaret had been calling mom about her needs. Her problems were so constant that even my mom couldn't keep up with them. Mom told us that she was at the end of her rope with Margaret, but she was still concerned about this poor woman who seemed to have few other options left -- except my mother.

That is, until the day Margaret called my wife. Mom and I had run an errand and Cathy stayed at the house. The phone rang. "Kitty? I need you." Her voice was pleading.

"No, this is her daughter-in-law Cathy. Kitty isn't here right now."

"Well, can you come over? I live close by, here in the park. I need a ride to the hospital."

"I'm sorry, but I don't have a car here."

"You can drive mine," Margaret said.

"I'm not comfortable driving in Albuquerque," Cathy told her honestly. "You should call the paramedics."

"They won't come. And I know what I need. I need someone to come here and give me an enema." (This story is true!)

At this point, Cathy -- who doesn't have the gift of mercy -- said, "I have never given anyone an enema in my life and I'm not about to start with someone I don't even know!"

To which Margaret cursed at her and said, "I guess I'll just die then!" (She didn't.)

Months later back in Arizona, our family had gathered from far and wide for a graduation. As we sat in our dining room, Cathy started telling the story of Margaret in Albuquerque. The entire family was howling with laughter.

All except one. Our son had tasted the bitter rejection of unkind words when he was a kid in school. As a man, his heart splatters with compassion. He listened to his mom's story in silence. After our laughter quieted, he spoke. Seriously. Haltingly. Sadness in his eyes.

"It sounds like what Margaret really needed was a friend..." His pause jerked us into sadness until he finished, "...and not an enema."

I think some of us were rolling on the floor.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And In This Corner... a true believer. And in this other corner is another true believer. They both truly believe...the other person is wrong!

A few years ago I was asked to help mediate a conflict between people in another church. They called us -- an attorney in our church and me -- to help them sort out the mess. I thought it was a high honor. Until we rendered a prayerful opinion and both sides were mad at us! We escaped without tar and feathers, but were loathe to sign up for a repeat performance.

I left there with a new understanding: some people don't want to reconcile their relationships. They just want to win!

Part of my role these days is again that of mediator. Usually I am helping people who see different sides of an issue truly hear each other and find a way to work together. Here are a few principles that have assisted me along the way...

1. Both sides have valuable perspectives. Most conflict arises when people see things one way and can't imagine a thinking person disagreeing with them. The checks and balances of the United States political system is a great lesson here. The older I get, the more I grimace at the blinders I wore in earlier years. I have withdrawn from the belief that politics can provide significant, helpful change. Consequently, I see more clearly how people from both persuasions are quick to point out the flaws in leaders of the opposition and overlook the exact foibles in their own heroes!

2. Both sides of a conflict need to be heard. It's great when they can sit and genuinely listen to each other, but neutral, outside help is often necessary.

3. The people on both sides need to be valued. When mediating, I do this by focusing my attention on each person's strengths, rather than their weaknesses. I teach this to married couples by explaining, "If you agree with each other on everything all the time, one of you isn't necessary!"

4. The mediator(s) must be neutral. The purpose of mediation is to reconcile. It often requires compromise on both sides of the table. The last thing needed is a mediator who has a personal agenda in the outcome.

After his First Missionary Journey, the apostle named Paul got into a passionate disagreement with his ministry partner -- a man named Barnabas. History seems to indicate that they both softened as they aged and they finally reconciled years later. In the meantime, the movement of establishing new churches continued like wildfire.

The sad reality is that such potent disagreement has often ended up far more negatively. I constantly meet people who got caught in the crossfire during "church wars" and simply walked away from the Body of Christ.

That's one of the reasons I am so passionate to be an instrument of healing.

Where do you fit?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good And Evil... My Little Town.

Growing up in a little town left me with a distinct impression about good and evil. It's hard to imagine, given the time and place I now live. My mom bought her groceries at the Safeway a couple of blocks from my elementary school. From about the time I was in the 4th grade, I can remember us walking after school to the Safeway store on Wednesdays -- "double stamp day." Students in my grade walked several blocks to the Jr. High school for band practice. Young kids walked home from school by themselves and traveled many blocks through neighborhoods that would now seem dangerous -- but it wasn't that way then.

I clearly remember, though, a lesson my dad taught me (I write this on his birthday). Dad was a mechanic and also the Service Manager at the local Ford Dealer. Not far down our main street was a service station.

When I was quite young, dad helped me understand that the service station had a reputation for dishonesty. He explained that they made a lot of money by sabotaging the tires and batteries on the cars of travelers who stopped for gasoline. As an attendant checked under the hood, he would find a way to make the battery look bad. As he checked the tires, he would sometimes damage one of them and offer to sell a new one. They had a variety of clever tricks to scare travelers into spending money.

Dad knew this was true, because wary travelers would often choose to go to a dealer for their repairs and end up at the Ford place. More likely than not, dad would show people what had happened and help them get on their way at little or no cost.

He once told another businessman, "I'd rather be cheated out of a dollar than knowingly cheat someone else out of a dime." The businessman hung his head and said, "I'm not sure I can say that."

Murders almost never happened in my little town. Robberies were rare. Assaults were unusual when I was growing up.

But good and evil? Oh, yeah!

What about your town?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Today In History...

...the most influential man in my life, my dad, was born. The year: 1923. He came into this world in a place called Utopia. Texas. Hard to top that! Dad died in 1990, but the older I get, the more I think of him with gratitude.

More about My Little Town.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Summer In The Cit...oops...My Little Town

Growing up in my little town included views to the west like this one...

Just north of this "M" (for Miners, the college nickname) Mountain was a peak that looked amazingly like a strawberry and so it was called. Our house in the farming valley northeast of town gave us a glorious view of both.

The month of June for us was hot and dry, but usually around the 4th of July, the monsoons would start. During that season, most mornings would begin with a bright, blue sky and not a cloud in sight. As the day warmed up, the clouds would build over the mountains to the west. They would grow in intensity during the afternoon and quite often bring a shower with them.

Before the flood control project provided a bypass for the water, my dad would watch the storms roll in. A hard rainstorm over Strawberry Peak meant that water would rush down the arroyos (washes, creeks -- what do you call them?). The path ultimately included a drainage canal that usually carried just a few inches of water. A couple of times the canal overflowed its banks and covered our little farm area in water.

Our region had four distinct seasons, each beautiful. Summer could be enhanced by the fresh fruit and vegetables we raised and by the smell of freshly cut alfalfa in the fields. Fall brought the county fair and a load of school activities. Winter included snow only occasionally but left me with some great memories. Spring meant our entire property was in blossom.

For some reason, it was the unpredictability of the summer monsoons that I now cherish the most. To me, life can be like those days with clear skies followed by storm clouds followed by the fresh air after cleansing rain.

Thinking back to your town, which season did you like best? Why?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Little Town

I grew up in a beautiful (in the eyes of the beholder, you see) Rio Grande farming valley near the geographical center of New Mexico. The substantial mountains to the west camouflage its elevation of slightly under a mile. The fertile river valley is shrouded in large cottonwood trees and salt cedars.

Socorro (Spanish for "help") had a population of under 8,000 when I was a kid. It was large enough to have a couple of grocery stores and two drugstores, two new car dealers and a small (but renowned) college -- New Mexico Tech. People came there from around the world to study the sciences -- particularly metallurgy.

One of our claims to fame was that Socorro was the boyhood home of the late hotelier, Conrad Hilton. Every year the Hilton Open Golf Tournament took place over a weekend and I have heard that the likes of Lee Trevino came there to play long before he made it big in the PGA.

We were also proud when, during my boyhood, the Wonderful World of Disney aired a serial about Elfego Baca, the Socorro "sheriff with 9 lives." Elfego was survived by relatives in Socorro and my dad knew some of the older ones who had known Elfego when they were young.

Someone once joked to me that Socorro was a one horse town. Until the horse left. In retrospect, I realize that I grew up thinking of my home town as a place you left. Most of my peers had no intention of staying there and, unlike the middle-sized city where I now live, the vast majority graduated from high school and moved away permanently.

Still, though, Socorro holds a bushel of memories for me -- most of them good. I will reflect one one or two this week.

As we begin a new week together, could you give us a thumbnail view of the town -- or city -- where you grew up?