Posts Tagged ‘influence

05
Jan
23

The Gift of Candles

They say… you know, the all-knowing, all-seeing THEY… that timing is everything. 

As is usually the case, they have indulged in a wee bit of literary hyperbole to make a point. The point that TIMING is a really, really important thing.

Comedians, trapeze artists, and base stealers in baseball will each readily endorse the truth of their words. 

But as I have found out on more than one occasion, KNOWING a thing and ACTING on that knowledge are vastly different things.  I am that guy who, just the other day, ran out to our curb with a big armload of cardboard, only to find out that I had JUST MISSED the recycling truck. I am also the guy who remembers to text his spouse that we are out of eggs immediately AFTER she has left the grocery store. 

For a long time, I also clung to the story that God’s timing of my call to the ministry was WAAAY off target. It seemed to me that the Almighty really blew a chance to catch me at the peak of my powers. I wondered… why didn’t God tap me on the shoulder back when I was super-charged with health and vitality? Back when I would have eagerly worked like a draft horse to help spread the Good News?

And so today, in addition to these musings about TIMING, I am also thinking about my dad. Today would have been his 96th birthday. He died six years ago, just two days past his 90th birthday. I relate these two subjects in my mind because I have often wondered if I inherited my “timing challenges” from dad.  

With a birth year of 1928, dad wasn’t quite old enough to actively fight in World War II. So, while all my buddies were sitting around swapping stories about how their dads fought at this battle in France, or that skirmish in the Pacific, I had to just sit quietly and listen. Dad did serve in the Army in Okinawa in ’46 and ’47, but strictly as part of the post-war occupying American force.

I also thought his timing of hearing his own call to the ministry was pretty off-target, too. You see, he graduated from seminary one year prior to my graduation from high school. And because of that timing, our family ended up moving from Columbus, Ohio to his first church in the suburbs of Seattle the summer before my senior year. 

Oh, the TRAUMA! Oh, the INJUSTICE! Oh, the HEARTBREAK!

[Then again, as the father of five children, I have to admit that dad’s timing in some things wasn’t too bad!]

Today, however, I find I am able to sit here and thank God for the gift of perspective that comes with my multiple fistfuls of birthday candles. Because of those candles, I am able to see and give thanks that my father did NOT have to face live bullets in the war. 

Those candles also help me now be grateful for the new friends, new experiences, and new outlooks that came as a result of my family’s cross-country relocation.  

And as far as the timing of my own call to the ministry, I can now say that God’s timing turned out to be absolutely PERFECT! I realize now that God allowed me to simmer and percolate and accumulate a whole quiver full of life experience that – I hope – enriched my ministry in ways that wouldn’t have been possible with the younger Russell.  

Like 100% of the rest of us, dad was flawed. He struggled with his temper. He could be a little heavy-handed with his discipline sometimes. He was a bit sartorially challenged. In his later years, he was drawn in by far too many of those, “As Seen on TV” miracle products. 

But the gift of perspective has finally helped me see past all of that to the kind, generous, compassionate, wise, and God-fearing man dad truly was. After I entered the ministry, he became a priceless mentor to me during some of the low points and aggravations that often come with the job.  

I hope my timing is not TOO far off here, but please forgive me, dad, for failing to appreciate all the different ways you blessed and encouraged me while you were here. My grandest aspiration is to become even HALF the blessing to my family and to the world that you were to us.

I love you.

Abundant blessings;

15
Mar
21

Thank you, Chris and Charlie

Today I want to use this space to say “Thank you” to all the people in my life who ever tried to teach me anything.

Lord knows this note is – in some cases – 50 or more years overdue. I am doing this because just the other day I began to mentally check off all of the routine practices I engage in… most of which I take completely for granted… that were lovingly and patiently taught to me by some caring adult.

I also realized that I considered their instruction to be a major pain in the neck at the time and did not adequately thank them then.

Naturally my parents are at the top of the list of “people who taught me useful stuff.” I never did – and now never will be able to – thank them nearly enough, but I am sure they heard “Thanks, mom!” and “Thanks, dad,” once or twice from me before they departed this earth. 

First, I want to thank my 10th grade Driver’s Ed teacher – whatever his name was – for teaching me the correct way to make a right turn (“Stay in the lane closest to the curb as you complete your turn!”) and how to come back into my lane after passing another car (“Wait until you can see both of their headlights in your rearview mirror!”).

I want to thank my Cub Scout pack leader, Mrs. Bletz, for teaching me to tie both a four-in-hand and a Windsor knot in my necktie… a skill I am making far less use of these days than I used to.

I want to thank my mother for teaching me the value of “rotating your stock” when putting away new, clean socks or underwear in my bureau. I know I never thanked her for that.

I want to thank Grandpa Raymond for trusting me enough with a sharp knife and a piece of wood to instruct me in some of the basics of whittling. 

I want to thank Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Daniels for showing me that teachers did not always have to be women… Mr. Hoffman in the sixth grade at school and Mr. Daniels around the same time in Sunday school. 

I want to thank Mr. Crossett for teaching me the difference between Stage Left and Stage Right and helping me learn how to PROJECT!! my voice.

I want to thank my counselors at Camp Merrowvista – Chris and Charlie – for showing me how to shoot a bow and arrow. And also, for being so cool and enthusiastically positive about the difference Christ made in their lives. 

Today I find myself especially grateful whoever it was that shared the brilliant hack of using a wire whisk to quickly remove the balls of snow from our dogs’ furry legs. 

I also want to thank…

[Whew! This list is already pretty long, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface! 

I am beginning to realize that at this rate it is going to take me at least a year and a half to name all the people who have made some kind of difference in my life. 

Maybe a better idea than trying to sit down and thank all these people here in my late 60s is to thank them then and there… to take a moment to look someone in the eye and say, “Thank you! That really means a lot to me. I know this lesson will stay with me and continue to influence my life for years and years to come. I really appreciate you.” 

We are each born with unique skills and abilities, but we also each grow and change as a result of the things we learn from other people. Many of those lessons happen when we are young, but there is never a time when we lose the ability to learn and grow.] 

Is there someone you can think of right now who taught you something useful, or made an important difference in your life? Why not take a moment and find a way thank them? 

I guarantee it will mean the world to them.

Abundant blessings;

12
Jan
21

That Small Rudder…

“The words of a president matter.”

These words were spoken earlier this week by the incoming U.S. president and were pointedly directed at the outgoing guy. They were meant to be a stinging rebuke of a set of words Mr. Outgoing spoke earlier from a podium over a microphone that then ignited a violent uprising in our nation’s capital.

Those weighty words from Mr. Incoming also seemed to contain a promise; “Once I am safely ensconced in the oval-shaped office, I promise to remember to use my words with care, intention, and purpose… unlike this other guy.”

I am sure you all know the events I am referring to, right?

But were you also tempted – as I was – to wipe the imaginary sweat from your brow and say, “WHEW! It’s a good thing that principle only applies to people who hold the office of President of the United States! Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about the effect of MY words!”

I hope you didn’t fall for that trap. Because although the scope of your power might not extend any further than your kitchen table, YOUR words (and mine) matter too. 

They have the power to heal… or harm… or encourage… or dispirit… or enlighten… or obscure… or bring joy… or bring sorrow. 

You – yes, YOU – exert influence when you speak. Believe it or not. As the writer of the book of James tells us, “Or look at ships; though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder… So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.” (James 3:4-5, NRSV). 

People who hear you speak believe your words are born of conviction… that is to say, they trust that you only say things because you believe them. 

If you tell me I am an idiot, you clearly believe that to be true. Or if you tell me I am kind, generous, and devilishly handsome, you also say that nonsense because you believe it. 

And if you believe something, well… there must be a good reason you believe it. 

After all we have been through in 2020 and these early days of 2021, we would all do well to remember that our words DO indeed matter to those who hear us…

… and to use them accordingly.

Abundant blessings;




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