Posts Tagged ‘personal

28
Jul
20

“The Beast Tamer”

Hedge trimmer“OK. That’s it,” I said to myself. “Today is the day!”

My exasperation with the state of the hedge along our back fence finally hit the breaking point last Friday. I headed to the garage in search of the hundred-foot-long extension cord, step ladder, and electric clippers… preparing to tame the unruly green beast.

I had been putting off this loathsome chore for several weeks now, but the time had finally come. Several small pets from around the neighborhood had apparently gotten lost inside my hedge and their owners were concerned.

My hedge comes honestly by its nickname “The Beast.” It is at least 100 feet long and – when allowed to grow unchecked – reaches 12 or 15 feet in height. Not content to grow upward, it also bushes out horizontally in a very shaggy, unkempt manner.

With all equipment finally in order (and Joan standing by, ready to dial 911), I began to operate.

About ten minutes into the procedure, I was interrupted by the delightful Scottish brogue of Hugh, our neighbor-behind-the-hedge. Hugh had come out onto his deck, was waving his arm and cheerfully hailing me. “Hey there, neighbor! Would you like to borrow THIS? It’ll make the job a lot easier!”

In Hugh’s left hand was a shiny red electric hedge trimmer with a 22-inch blade. My sad excuse for a hedge tool had only a stubby 16-inch blade.

Hugh (and no, I did not make up this name. My Scottish neighbor really IS named “Hugh.”) headed over and in the twinkling of an eye was standing at the base of my ladder, red, 22” trimmer in hand.

“Here… let me show you how it works,” Hugh said. And in an instant, he had commandeered my extension cord and began trimming massive swaths of hedge. “You see,” he said, “You really need to get right back there or else you’ll be out here again in two weeks doing the same thing.”

After turning over his red “Beast Tamer” to me, Hugh exited by the rear gate, but not before saying, “And don’t worry about the top. I’ll just trim that from my side when you’re done.”

And then, in less time than it took me to grab Hugh’s hedge trimmer and ascend the step ladder, I sensed that a mystical transformation had taken place. Suddenly, an EVENT (a neighbor stopped what he was doing and helped me trim my hedges) became a STORY (“I live in this great neighborhood where people go out of their way to help each other.”)

And hopefully, in the retelling of this dull, dry, quotidian event I have been able to illustrate something that is both a primary penchant, but also a fundamental need of human beings everywhere… the need for STORIES. (To that end, may I recommend one of my favorite bloggers to you, Mitch Teemley and his blog, The Power of Story at: https://mitchteemley.com).

Every day you and I stumble through a collection of seemingly happenstance, unrelated moments of our lives. We get up, water the house plants, walk the dogs, shower, eat a little yogurt and granola, and do a thousand other things before we turn off the bedside lamp and close our eyes.

Throughout that haphazard progression, we are niggled by a fundamental hunger for MEANING. We look at this tangle of these random, multi-colored threads and ACHE to believe that if we flip the frame over and look at the other side, we will see a beautiful, flowing, coherent, tapestry. A yearning to make sense of the world around us is an essential part of being human. In our heart of hearts, we know that a narrative of randomness and arbitrarity is ultimately corrosive to our souls.

And so, we must each choose the narrative we will live by.

Not just the one that helps make sense of today, but the one that helps make sense of FOREVER. Because it is only in the setting of that meta-narrative that our mundane mini-narratives can add up to anything at all.

Today I join the Old Testament hero Joshua in declaring, “As for me and my household, we will serve [choose] the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15, NRSV).

And trust me when I tell you, in my life I have done extensive shopping at the Narrative Mall and after much painful trial and error, I have chosen THIS ONE as the one I will live by.

Why?

Because as Beast Tamers go, this one beats them ALL!

 

Abundant blessings;

15
Jul
20

“You’re FIRED!! “

Fired imageHave you ever been fired from a job?

I don’t mean “Sorry, Russell, but we’ve got to let you go because of a downturn in economic conditions.” I mean FIRED. As in, “Dude, we thought you would be good at this job when we hired you, but it turns out you really suck at it. Please pack up your stuff and leave NOW.”

I’ve had that experience. More than once.

And I have to tell you… it is one of the worst feelings in the world.

First there is the slap in the face of personal rejection. There is no sugar-coating the message that says, “YOUare inadequate. YOU don’t measure up.” You can stand there and cry “FOUL!” and complain ‘til you are blue in the face, usually to no avail.

The verdict is in. You’ve been found GUILTY and sentenced to immediate termination. No appeals will be granted.

Then, as you are still reeling from the shock of the initial blow and struggling to regain your balance, the fear and panic begin setting in. “What am I going to do now?” you wonder. “How am I going to support my family?” “Who is ever going to hire me again with this black mark on my record?”

And I have to tell you – it is no picnic sitting on the other side of that desk either. During my career in ministry I only had to fire two people for cause. It might only have been two, but each one weighed heavily on my heart. I stewed about it for weeks before, tried to rationalize my way out of the deed, giving second and third chances and coaching in hopes of turning things around.

But in the end, the axe had to fall. And it literally made me sick to my stomach (regardless of what the star of The Apprentice might have you believe).

Looking back on those dismal chapters of my life, I am reminded of God’s amazing power to redeem. Though I would not wish either end of the firing squad on my worst enemy, I am aware of the unique way those experiences helped shape the person I am today.

For starters, they helped remind me of the tender heart that lies within (sometimes DEEP within) every person I meet and how each of those people yearn for acceptance. I have learned that even in a fleeting encounter – at the cash register, at the gas pump, or even just passing on the sidewalk – I have the power to communicate ACCEPTANCE or REJECTION to each one.

Those painful passages – together with my abiding faith in the love of Christ – also helped remind me that any rejection I face from another person is a transitory state of affairs, based on immediate circumstances. It has NO BEARING on my intrinsic worth as a person. As Christ himself reminds us in Matthew 10:29, 31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care… So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I am prompted to insert here the reminder that the “you” in this passage is unconditional. It is not the “you” who performs well on the job, at home, or in the community. It is the exact “you” who is reading this sentence right now, warts and all.

As you go about the tasks that this day requires, look around carefully. Notice your neighbors, or the people you pass in the store or on the street. Be reminded that every single one of them is craving some reminder that they matter… that they are accepted.

And maybe YOU are there for that express purpose.

 

Abundant blessings;

27
Dec
17

An Inside Job…

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.“
Luke 19:42, NRSV

Jesus lamentLooking toward the year ahead, I see a whole bunch of stuff on the horizon.

I see “wannas.”

I see “gottas.”

I see a TON of “oughtas.”

But I see just a small handful of “MUSTS.”

And right there at the top of the “must” list is the MUST of heeding Jesus’ sentiment in the verse from Luke there at the top of the page.

You might know that these are the words he spoke as he lamented over the city of Jerusalem, a mere 48 hours before his arrest, torture, and crucifixion.

As Jesus spoke these words, he looked out on a city that was in a deep state of division and political unrest. It was a city that seemed to have lost its primary, faith-centered identity in a quest to appease the leaders of the status quo.

Does any of that ring a familiar bell?

Jesus laments Jerusalem’s failure to recognize “the things that make for peace.” But I like to suggest that today we are called to go a step further.

We are called not to just recognize the things that make for peace… we are called to act on them as well.

And to take it a step further, I am called to recognize that all of this has to begin with ME.

It doesn’t start with new laws… It doesn’t start with a different president… or with a whole new slate of state or civic leaders. It doesn’t even start with better attendance in our churches, synagogues, or other places of worship.

It starts with ME.

It starts with me looking deeply in the mirror and recognizing that I am a lot angrier man today than I was a few years ago.

Then I have to recognize the fact that angry people are usually not very effective peacemakers. In fact, neurological studies have shown that our brains undergo physiological change the more often we allow anger to take over and rule our approach to the world.

And as much as I would like to explain away and excuse my heightened state of anger; the truth is that none of those explanations really matter.

What matters is doing something different.

What matters is mapping a different response to the things that push my buttons… that is, to work on becoming the initiator of the response rather than the reactor to the stimulus.

Unless you are in either a natural or chemically induced state of bliss 24/7, we all see things happening around us that push our buttons, rub us the wrong way, or outrage us.

It comes with the territory of being awake.

The question is: what will you DO with your outrage?

I was scratching my head over this very question the other day when I came across this very interesting article from the Edutopia website. It was written by Laura Thomas and addresses what she sees as a growing state of anger toward others in this country.

In the course of the article, Ms. Thomas suggests three questions we each might ask when some new “button pushing” stimulus comes to our attention. She suggests we pause (often a challenge in and of itself) and ask:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react or what happens when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

So often – at least for me – when I am busy being outraged, I can spin myself into a rapidly escalating spiral of righteous indignation that perpetuates its own energy. I’ve heard enough and I’m READY TO RUMBLE!

The idea of pulling back and asking these questions would not just be helpful to me and my spirit… it might even be healing for the WORLD.

I know at this point that I am supposed to reach out and invite you to join me in my resolve to be a peacemaker in the year ahead… and start a social media “chain letter” of peacemaking.

And all of that would be great.

But whether you do or not, I am clear that I need to let peace begin with me.

Hey! Wouldn’t that be a cool song?

 

Abundant blessings to you;

 




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