Posts Tagged ‘lessons

18
Mar
21

Going First

Going first comes naturally to me.

Going first doesn’t always mean finishing first, just FYI.

It all started when I volunteered to be the first of five children born to Lyn and George Brown, some [mumble, mumble] years ago.

That meant I got to be the first guinea pig for them to test all of their new parenting theories on. I was the first to walk… the first to ride a bike… the first to fall down and skin my elbow… the first to go to school… first to get my driver’s license… and the first to see exactly what the consequences were for violating the family rulebook.

Each time the stork delivered a new bundle of joy to the Brown house, mom and dad were able to tweak their parenting skills a little more, so that by the time #5 came along, they were absolute paragons of parenting perfection. 

You’re welcome, siblings!

Going first soon became a way of life for me. Naturally when neighbor Marc Downer and I were standing on top of the flat-roofed garage behind our house on Norwich Street with bedsheets [excuse me… I mean PARACHUTES], tied to our waists, I was the first one to jump off and test our theory of aerodynamics. 

NEWS FLASH: It didn’t work.

Even though the resulting twisted ankle and bruised head would have taught most people a lesson, I nevertheless persisted. Well into early adulthood I continued to push myself to the head of the line at home, in the classroom, and on the playground. 

In fact, many, many years later when I was one of an army of associate pastors in the largest United Methodist Church in the country, I raised my hand and offered to lead their maiden attempt to develop a “satellite” campus in a suburban location.

Now some of you hearing this narrative might be quick to point me to Jesus’ words from Matthew 19:30 wherein he admonishes Peter and some of the other eager beaver disciples by saying, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30, NRSV). You might even double up your scripturally-based finger wagging with this gem from Proverbs: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, NRSV). 

To which I would probably reply: “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to YOU!”

No… I’m sorry. As tempted as I might be, I would not say that. Yes, I would THINK it, but those exact words would probably stay bottled up inside me.

Mostly, though, I would have to agree with you.

One of the biggest things I discovered through my years of going first is that it is usually a very humbling experience. When you stick your toe into waters no one has ventured into before, you end up making a lot of mistakes. You are doing everything for the first time without the benefit of being able to look at the “teachable moments” from a predecessor. 

Just ask some of the people who had the misfortune of being members of my staff in that first satellite campus church. 

For me, a more relevant scripture passage than those above is this one from First Corinthians. In it we hear Paul explaining some of the fundamentals of church leadership to a skeptical audience: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, NRSV). 

Perhaps this is “wishful hearing” on my part, but I think Paul is saying, “Look… somebody has to go first. Somebody has to get out there and whack down the weeds and underbrush to clear the trail. Somebody has to blunder out and make all the initial mistakes. But whether you are firstsecond, or somewhere toward the end of the line, the only thing that matters is getting God’s work done.”

And so, if I can make someone else’s road a little less bumpy by jumping to the front of the line and becoming a cautionary tale for God’s greater glory, I’m good with that…

… as long as I also get to go first in the cafeteria. 

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;




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