Friday, August 28, 2009

Say That Again?!

Our long-time friend Melinda recently wrote on Facebook about a sign she saw: "Emergency Piano Sale!" She then questioned the difference between an "Emergency Piano" and a regular piano. Did it have red and blue lights that strobed round and round? Did it have a siren? Can you play faster on it than a regular one? At least that's some of the stuff Melinda was questioning.

Well, I saw a Sears ad yesterday. It said, "plus free oil changes for one year by mail when you buy 4 Michelin tires." Hmmmm.

I think I'll ask our friend Laurie, the mail carrier, if her work is messier than it used to be.

I just wonder how close I have to pull up to the mail box to keep it from spilling any.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cathy Got Clothed!

Yesterday, you heard how I got belted on the night of our 37th Wedding Anniversary. Today (the rest of the story), you'll discover how Cathy got clothed. (Author's note: the word "clothed" in American English is normally pronounced with a long "o" -- as such, the past or perfect tense of the the word "clothe." That, my dear reader, is not my usage today. Instead, I am using it as the past tense of "cloth" -- rhyming with "moth." My readers with extremely advanced studies in linguistics, namely my daughter Becki and my British friend Rachel Cotterill, will hopefully treat me kindly on this. If you can't treat me kindly, girls, please observe the sage wisdom of Cathy's mom, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." :o) )

We walked up to the checkout stand at Kohls, Cathy taking sideways glances at me and my eleven belts for purchase. "It's a bit embarrassing," she whispered.

We were third in line at the only register with a cashier (August 25th, with normal highs well above 100 degrees, isn't so much a "fast day" for local businesses.) When the the line moved up, Cathy noticed the matching table cloths being purchased by the lady in front of us. "They match our kitchen colors perfectly," she said."

"Do you want one?" I generously replied, holding the eleven belts in my hands.

"I don't know. Nah, we just use place mats anyway."

About that time, we noticed the Spanish interaction between cashier and the lady in front of us (remember, we are on the border with Mexico). There seemed to be a question about one of the table cloths. Finally, the cashier looked at us, the customers with the belts, and asked (in English), "Can you tell from the label if this is the rectangle or the oval?"

The print on that tag would qualify for the electron microscope in science lab. We both squinted through our bifocals long enough to get headaches and, with the interaction of the friendly cashier, figured that this was an oval-shaped table cloth. Obviously, it wasn't what the customer wanted and, after another brief exchange in Spanish, the cashier placed it to the side along with other items to be returned to shelves.

You should also know that other customers were lining up behind us at this point and, whether or not they appreciated the long query over the table cloth shape, two different young men kept glancing at the strange old guy with the armload of belts. Cathy, ever helpful (and fully embarrassed by me) said, "It's a great sale -- 90% off!" I saw these guys each sort of glance back toward the men's department, then resolve to keep their places in the growing line.

When it was finally our turn with the cashier, I saw Cathy look again at the oval-shaped table cloth (perfect size for our table). "Do you want it?" I asked again.

"Well, I just don't know (I thank God for a frugal wife.), how much was it again?" At this point a little drool was forming at the corner of her mouth (Ouch! She just hit me!). The cashier quickly scanned it -- it was over 50% off.

"Go ahead, take it!" I encouraged.

"You can always return it!" helped the cashier. As she began to ring up the belts, the table cloth, and the "$10 off" coupon, she tried ever so hard to talk us into saving even more by applying for a credit card. We didn't, but Cathy did surrender her email address for a discount...

...and we walked out the door to the parking lot laughing like children!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I got belted!

Thank you to all who took time to congratulate Cathy and me on our 37th Wedding Anniversary yesterday! Here's today's story, which actually took place on our way home from dinner last night.

Let me tell you about belts. They used to make real, honest-to-goodness, long-lasting leather belts. Like the one still wearable that hangs in my closet -- I bought it during the summer before we got married! Every time I consider throwing it away, I realize that it's in pretty good shape and I hang on to it. I wear it several times a year.

Then, there are the belts you buy today. They are beautiful, They are leather. They retail at major department stores for about 25 bucks. And they usually last me something like four months! I'm not THAT hard on belts. They just fall apart! The leather separates. Sometimes I think it's really cardboard will a shiny plastic coating. This is all no exaggeration. YOU know!

So, when I bought another one at at Kohls almost a year ago AND it's still in pretty good shape, I started watching their ads for my next purchase. Well, Cathy asked me the other day if I needed anything from there. She had a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $20 or more. "YES!" I replied. "I need a belt."

When we stopped there yesterday evening, I was glad to walk with Cathy to the men's belt racks and see a sign for 20% off. Coupon in hand, I double checked the size I was wearing (the belt I bought there last year) and starting looking through one rack while Cathy looked at another. Finally seizing upon just the one I wanted, I was ready to leave.

"Do you need any more?" Cathy inquired.

The sale wasn't that good and we had only one coupon. I turned to where she was looking and right next to us was a final markdown rack including a whole bunch of belts, about half of them my size. All name brands and reasonably good quality, the price was (ta-DA!) 90% off!

We kept finding more, double-checking what we already had and finally bought ten of them -- for the price of one. (Oh, I also bought the original one -- it's what I came for.)

I think I'll mark my calendar. You see, I think that 37 years from now I just might still be wearing that belt I bought in the Summer of '72.

I will want to see if any of those 11 make it that long!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Who's That?

Who's that cute little blonde girl walking across the campus with an armload of books? She looks like a serious student -- far too serious for a goofball like me!

Maybe that's why I was afraid to ask her out. Until a friend told me she might -- she juST MIGHT -- say yes!

I asked.

She affirmed.

We went.



"I DO!"

37 years ago today.

Happy Anniversary, Love of my life!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Waking Up With A Smile

After three Sunday morning sermons, my brain just about ceases to function on Sunday afternoons. The "traditional" Sunday afternoon nap (do you do that in other countries?) was taken yesterday out of raw necessity. It was like I passed out for a solid hour.

Awaking, I got out of bed and stumbled my way into the living room. Before I even sat down, Cathy's phone rang and in was our Boston daughter wanting to know if we could talk on the video cam.

The moment of the connection, we could hear our two-year-old granddaughter, M, explain to her mom (in very adult fashion), "If Sampa is taking a nap, I can just talk to Grammy."

My paternal grandparents lived less than 100 miles away when I was growing up. The most consistent way to communicate with them was via the U.S. Mail. Now we can visit grandchildren well over 1,000 miles away at the click of a button.

And, yesterday, seeing that beautiful little face sure gave me a smile as I shook the cobwebs from my brain.

Never mind that she mostly wanted Grammy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet..."

But am I a leader?

I will never forget that day. I sat on my bedroom floor full of questions and concerns. A few days earlier I had heard a world class leader speak about leadership. I was intimidated, fearful, and challenged.

At that point in my life, I had been a pastor for a number of years. But was I a leader? The question, I felt, was critical as I tried to make good choices for my future.

You see, small churches often have pastors who do a large variety of tasks. They are like chaplains, counselors, teachers, preachers, servants, intercessors, evangelists and administrators rolled into one. Many of them even turn out the lights and lock the doors after every church meeting. The vast majority of the churches in this country are still small enough that this model of the "general practitioner" pastor is the one many people think of every time they see a clergyperson. And what would we do without them?

Something happens, though, as a church starts to grow. They need to add other staff who pick up many of the specialized areas of work. They also have to recruit and train volunteers to a more acute serving focus. All of this requires some management skills, but -- ultimately -- the need of skilled leadership keeps increasing. That's the concern that drove me to my bedroom floor that day.

My position on the floor shouldn't be given some spiritual interpretation. I was on the floor because it was comfortable. I could sit, lay with a book in front of me and move around as needed. (Besides, I live in the desert and the floor is often cooler!)

"Am I a leader?" I asked (both myself and God). It was time to be brutally honest with the answers. An interesting verse in Romans says, "Leaders should lead." The context of the passage is that God gives gifts to the church and we should use the ones God gives us as individuals. Did I have that gift of leadership? Or was I deceiving myself and negatively impacting the work of our local church? Possibly, it was time to find another place to serve.

I am nearly two decades from that day. I remember assessing my life up until then. I recalled that, from childhood, I had often led in various settings. I led at church, at school and among friends. I realized that I had always been comfortable leading. In fact, I often wanted to lead as I watched others hesitate.

I really haven't ever been a puppet. Or a pauper, a pirate or a poet. But I came to the conclusion that God designed me to lead.

I've been working to get better at it ever since.

What did God design you to do?