Month: August 2014

Wishing for Friday

I passed a co-worker in the hallway this week on Wednesday. When we exchanged greetings, she said, “I wish it was Friday.” She then realized that she had wished away two days of her life, but she still wanted it to be Friday.

When I was a young army officer, I found myself wishing twenty years would pass, so I could then retire from the army, and do something else. Almost immediately, I realized I was wishing my life away, and stopped the thought then and there. As it turned out, I only spent seven years active duty before being medically discharged, but I have recalled that wish, and have not repeated it. Now that it has been 29 years since leaving the service, I am more aware than ever of those wishes that I could fast-forward time. Time seems to fast-forward on its own now!

Do you ever find yourself wishing time would pass quicker? It’s likely you don’t nearly as much as you did when younger. Let time take care of itself. It was doing it long before you came along.

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Resting on the Hills

In the part of the country where I live, there are still many gravel roads, and some paved roads that have not been drastically changed for a century or so. One of the things I noticed, especially on the gravel ones, is about halfway up an incline, there will be a level area about 20 or 30 feet long, then the road angles again toward the crest of the hill. I wondered about this on several roads I saw (especially if I am running on the roads), until I remembered something my dad talked about years ago.

When he was growing up in southwest Arkansas, and the family went to visit grandma, they would go in a wagon pulled by horses or mules. In the middle of an incline, they would stop the wagon, put a rock behind the wagon wheels, and let the animals rest for awhile before continuing up the hill. It was my dad’s job as a youngster to get the rock behind the wheels.

So, these level places on the local roads in my neighborhood were for the same purpose. The animals could rest briefly before pulling the load to the top of the hill.

It’s interesting that we’ve known for centuries how to treat animals that work for us, but we still are not good at “resting” ourselves when pulling the loads in life. We plod up the inclined challenges as if we will never run out of energy until we cannot go further, and then we pull at the reigns again.

Let me suggest you look for or create a level place to let your body, emotions, and spirit rest before you pull again.

Let Them Hear Their Own Words

Some of the most interesting lessons I have learned have been along the lines of keeping silent. Overcoming the desire to reply to everything may be the most valuable lesson I have learned over the years.

One area that has been especially helpful is when I was being yelled at by someone who outranked me, and I could not respond as I would have otherwise. I simply let him rant on the phone, which took several minutes (or so it seemed). Then, after he ran out of gas, I remained silent for another five seconds or so. It totally put him off guard, to the point he asked, “You still there?” I replied “Yes sir, I’m here, and I heard you.” Still somewhat off-balance, he quickly hung up. I was not insubordinate, and I discovered a technique to allow him to hear himself. Without my response to further fuel his momentum, his words were the only ones hanging in the air, and the awkward pause that followed made them seem even more unreasonable. This was my goal, and I managed to accomplish it without a word. I suggest you try it sometime.

Friends First

When I was in my first full-time ministry job, my friend and I were driving somewhere, and (as usual) talking theology. He pointed to the radio dial, back when there was an actual horizontal row of numbers. He pointed to the middle of the dial, and asked me to place him and me where we were theologically, center, left of center, or right.

I put him slightly right of center, and me slightly left. He looked surprised. He asked why I placed us where I did. I explained why on both counts. I asked him why he didn’t worry about what I would say in the pulpit. He said since I always began with scripture, he wasn’t worried about what I would say. That taught me something, and I still do so after 20 years.

It occurred to me why we didn’t argue more, or have heated debates so famous in our fellowship. We had decided up front to be friends, and therefore didn’t begin with any mistrust or suspicion that the other was “up to no good”. We began by assuming the best of each other, and small matters remained just that: small matters. It’s amazing what a good foundation of trust can do. Now re-connected, we can still speak openly, directly, and honestly with each other, because the foundation remains.

Is Trust Complicated?

A popular description on social media regarding relationships is “complicated”. Since I don’t use the term personally, I can’t speak for others. However, the use of the term seems to convey doubt about whether the relationship is good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, or even existent.

When talking about trust, however, the accurate term is “simple”. We either trust, or we don’t. It tends to be much more a yes or no answer than overly descriptive. The more words used, the less likely trust is the real topic.

I have heard people say they trust, without being able to explain why, but they still trust. On the other hand, I have also heard people say they do not trust, and are unable to explain why. I believe with the right questions, they would discover why. Perhaps we will go into that soon.

Is Trust Trending?

What if you saw an upward trend line at the edge of your screen, and the word “trust” beside it? Would you check it out? Would you be curious to see what it was about trust that has caught the attention of social media?

Don’t expect it. It’s one of those things that takes time and consistency. Isn’t that what trust is all about? It’s not immediate, and it’s not “trendy”. It’s part of our very core, and what we need for the long run. I believe we seek the ability to trust others, but have grown skeptical as to whether we can.

So, with a massive twelve or so followers, we will continue this, and as long as one notices, good things will result. Why? Because it is supposed to.

Showing Up

It’s good to send a letter, email, or even a text when we cannot do otherwise. Such innovations help in times when physical presence is not possible. But none of those, nor any other thing, is a good substitute for being there.

We too often use the more convenient to replace the more meaningful method of actually showing up. It’s true, we can treasure a postcard sent from a foreign country for years. Yet, the time and trouble it takes to travel there (or here) will be a more treasured memory than words on paper could do. I’m not talking about historical documentation, but valued and loving presence when it is needed.

Please don’t mistake good intentions for follow-through. Plans do not make up for conclusion. Resolve does not replace resolution. Put simply: show up.

The Pace

Gaining trust often means we battle against the hectic pace the world around us seems to demand. We cannot be present in the lives of those we care about if we do it on the run.

Drive-by waving and true presence do not mix. They are opposites. Who has time for such care? How can I possibly spend any quality time if I have so much to do and so many places to be? This is not easy, though it is simple.

Priorities. It’s the one word that’s useful here. What are yours? Only you can answer that question. It may help to ask it a different way. Twenty years from now, what will have mattered? Will it be extra hours at work? Will it be the vast numbers of poeple you spent thirty seconds with? Will it be those you could have a real impact on by the time spent with them? What will they say about you, and what you did or didn’t do? We are shaping those comments, and if we’re in this for the long haul, it matters what we do.

What Shakes Us?

I suppose we all have the one or two things in our lives that if they are threatened, we would lose any composure, character, or faith we might otherwise have. As long as those things are okay, so are we, and we can handle all other threats to our well-being or peace.

What are those things, or what is that one thing? It may have to do with our health, or that of a family member. It may be a particular standing we have in our community or church or civic group. It may be our reputation, or our current job. It may be the relationship we have waited so long for, and just now secured.

To even ask this question is to venture into territory we may just as soon avoid. Why think of these things? Why not just think of something happier, and be thankful for what we have, instead of the possibility of losing it? Why indeed?

Again, why indeed? Studies show we already spend too much time thinking of just those things, and as a result, are anxious when we really have little to be anxious about. If our anchor is firmly in the right place, we can enjoy the small and large things of life, without spending too much time dwelling on what might happen. If we know what shakes us, chances are we also know the solution to that fear.

Problem-Solvers

I have an opportunity to see some of the most skilled problem-solvers anywhere. With a trauma coming in by ambulance, the team gets ready to receive and respond to a life and death issue with a human being.

They have sketchy information, but do not know any details or acuity level of the patient, so they wait. Is everything in place? Is any possible equipment needed on standby? Are all the appropriate people here?

Upon arrival, there is a wave of organized chaos, concise communication, and tremendous energy. Teamwork and flow are clearly seen in what otherwise appears to be confusion. Everyone has a job to do, and someone always jumps in when a new job or need suddenly appears in the midst of this madness.

Eventually, either the patient is stablized, or not. They either prepare for the next step with this patient, or gradually gear down for the next routine situation.

It’s what they do, and they do it every day. This is trust at perhaps its purest, and most needful. When we stop having accidents or sudden, life-threatening illnesses, we won’t need them. Until then, though, we do.