Month: April 2015

The Image of Beauty

When I visited Paris, and the Louvre Museum, one of the most amazing items was the statue of David. It stands in its own room, which is round. The lighting is magnificent. This particular sculpture is different from any previous ones of David. Until this one was created, all others depicted David as an older king. This one shows David as a youth, contemplating his battle with Goliath. He has a look of serenity, and of course his physique is famous for its perfection.

What I noticed, in addition to its huge size, was the reaction of people as they viewed it. As they gazed at the perfectly shaped body, they began to straighten up and walk a little more upright. The sculpture had a positive effect on everyone who stood there. I know I walked a little straighter, and taller (if that’s possible for me).

Trustworthy people have an uplifting effect on those around them, even if it’s by simple example. The honesty, integrity, and truthfulness will be seen. The power of a good example cannot be underestimated. It has its own beauty.

Who Are We?

This is a deep question, and can be answered in many ways. Each of us wear several labels as we fulfill various roles in life. Husband, wife, dad, mom, co-worker, etc. When I conduct a funeral service, especially for a person I didn’t know, I try to keep in mind there are people there with various connections to the deceased, and address those if I can.

Yet, the point here is not about roles or labels. It’s about what an individual thinks about himself or herself regarding their place in their community, society or the world. The trustworthy person is likely not still deciding who they are. They have found themselves earlier in life, and are now working to solidify that identity, of which they are comfortable. They are, as the common phrase puts it, “Comfortable in their own skin.” Their growth is still ongoing, yet they are not uncertain what they will be when they grow up, because they are grown up. This doesn’t mean changes won’t take place, but their way of handling change does not involve become un-trustworthy. They still carry the credibility and character they always had, no matter what.

Don’t we need that dependable person near us, so we can become that person? Trust can be contagious, so be aware!

Extreme Normalcy

Perhaps it’s the younger generation (I never thought I’d say that) who all but ignore anything that isn’t designated “extreme”, “ultimate”, “severe”, or “radical”. These words can be associated with gaming, fighting (in a cage!), racing, skiing, boating, sleeping, eating, etc. I’m anxiously awaiting extreme tooth-brushing, and the accompanying reality show.

What’s wrong with normal, regular, and gentle? Have our senses become immune to the predictable, or the safe? Is the edge of the cliff better than the middle-of-the-road? Do things have to change this minute, or can it take longer?

Too many questions, not enough thought in between! Just to clarify, I do prefer the excellent to the mediocre, the challenging over the non-challenging, and the stretching over the collapsing. Yet, when we must add “absulutely” to the word “true”, something is amiss. We should be able to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. There is such a thing as overuse of adverbs until we can no longer take the shortest route to truth. Crossing our hearts and hoping to die is for kids, not for adult credibility. In spite of what we see and hear, it still is normal not be extreme.

Taking and Giving

Have you ever known a person who seemed to take something from you with nearly every encounter? They simply made you feel inadequate in some way, or caused you to second-guess yourself? I noticed a pattern with one particular individual some years ago when I had that feeling.

This person would be fairly subtle about it, but I always felt that I never quite measured up. He would ask me whether I had done something. When I said I hadn’t, he replied, “I would have thought you would have done that.” He seemed disapponted in me, and it wasn’t something I would have expected to do, except in his mind. His agenda for me kept me off-balance.

This type of corrosive manipulation is perhaps not even conscious, but it is noticed by the person on the “minus” end of the dialogue. The person always takes, and seldom gives. On the other hand we are grateful for people who look for ways to build us up without being overly flattering, but in a positive way. They are the givers, and they make our lives better. They tend also to be trustworthy, because they are not out to deflate our worth. Hopefully we are that kind of people.

Trust on Money

Our currency keeps mentioning the idea of trust. It’s printed on every coin and bill we spend, borrow or lend. Of course, the emphasis there not on trust itself, but the object of the trust: God. Yet, the subject is still trust. It does make sense: there must be someone in whom we trust.

What does it mean to trust? It means to place our dependence in something or someone bigger or better than themselves. The trust is not in the money, but in the One who provides everything, including the resources for our lives. If our trust somehow tends toward the money itself, we are immediately on the wrong track. The trust is valuable in itself, but also must be in the right place. There is no better place then our Creator.

So, sometimes when the money talks, it’s okay to listen.

Trusting Presence

When we want to speak to “help” someone, it’s more often time to be silent. Much of what we would say would not be helpful anyway. If we can fight the urge to fix the situation, we can concentrate on being present in the moment for them.

Never underestimate the value of your presence for another human being. You provide the gaps they will fill when ready to do so. A symphony is a series of notes, with gaps. Without the gaps, the notes would be a terrible noise all at once. You provide the gaps for the other person so the symphony can play itself out.

Don’t worry if you don’t know when to speak. When in doubt, don’t. They need to be heard, and if they don’t have a willing pair of ears, they cannot be heard. What’s more, the less you say while staying with them, the more grateful they will be. You will be surprised at the simplicity of the moment, and the value of your presence.

Predictable or Boring?

When we drove though the county where I grew up, flat delta farmland, one of our kids said, “Dad, this is boring.” It was to them. The closest thing to a hill was an overpass. The once thick stands of trees were gone, subject to an earlier generation carving out a living farming the land. So, for me, it was never boring. It represented (and still does) a tradition and valueable source of food and clothing for our country and the world.

As far as eye could see, nearly every square inch of the land is tilled and planted. In some places, the plants became part of the shoulder of the road. I once reflected on the difference between some of the roadways in the Rocky Mountains that run along a treacherous ledge, and the roads where I grew up that could not be closer to the ground.

So, is trust boring? Perhaps some want the excitement that comes with unpredictability, and do not mind not knowing what would happen in any given day. How would we like to wake up to family members who might give us a hug or a slap, depending on their mood? No, a certain amount of “boredom” is desired, if it means we can depend on some things to be consistent.

That is what trust is to me. It is predictable, like row upon row of soy beans, cotton, corn or the flooded fields of rice. The main uncertainty there is the weather. The best thing about the weather is that it holds no animosity, and does nothing because it’s in a bad mood. It simply is. So is trust. It is the intentional, consistent, predictable key to lasting character and legacy.

Who Owns Trust?

Claiming ownership of trust is common, but not necessarily true of those who claim it. We are bombarded regularly with office holders and candidates (and this is only be beginning) who claim a right to our trust.

Yet, we watch, as we should, to see if the trust is warranted. With some, we decide trust should not be placed. With others, we decide trust is appropriate for the individual. With still others, we are withholding judgment until we have more information.

It’s important we maintain the ability to watch, listen, and read to make good decisions regarding those who employ us, serve us in public office, or work with us in our daily lives. Do we pay enough attention, or do we simply let the trust be up in the air, and availabe to anyone who claims it?

Trusting the Routine

There are many things we cannot control (though we would really like to) and those are the things that tend to occupy our thoughts. How can we fix the national debt? How can we convince our school teachers to continue to teach cursive writing? Why won’t those parents keep their kids in line at Walmart?

When I arrive at work every day, I love the routine. I have a plan for the day, and at times that plan goes much like I expected. Other times, it doesn’t. Who plans for a heart attack (though if we pay attention, we know it is inevitable) or that an accident on the interstate that sends the emergency department into controlled chaos? Who knows that the staff member you see every day has a marriage falling apart and really needs to talk about it now?

Though some would like to change everything all at once, there is something to be said for the slow, inevitable change that takes place because the world changes. Our routines are the ways we operate best. I don’t find them boring; I find them comforting. It is the only thing I can predict and among the few things I can control. I’m not a control freak, but I do cherish getting my day started at my pace instead of being with someone having the worst day of their life. I can do the latter, but I prefer the former.

I do hope my preference for routine is not an age-related syndrome that means I’ll just one day wind down to a total stop. I may, but I also want a challenge, except I want it on my schedule. I need the routines to help me get ready for the next crisis.

Tusting the Land; Always Another Hill

I could easily write about this from a farmer’s point of view. Though I have never been a farmer, I grew up with them. However I will write from the point of view of a runner. After slacking off after a health issue and during the cold part of the winter, I’m getting back into the flow. I know my hills and know when I can relax heading down the other side.

It occurred to me today that I have learned to do something I didn’t do before. I enjoy the downhill stretches more. I can catch my breath and let my legs relax a little. In the past, I didn’t enjoy downhill, because I kept thinking about the next uphill. If I focused on the challenge ahead, the coasting slipped by too quickly, and it seemed I was always running uphill.

Does that have any application to our lives? I think so. We tend to skip the great moment, dreading the hard moments ahead. The good times slip away and are forgotten in the anxiety of what’s ahead we dread. So, the moral of this note is: Enjoy coasting; there’ always another hill.