Posts Tagged ‘rich

05
Sep
19

The man on the bench

Man on a benchI almost missed him, and thereby, his invitation.

The low, one-story building came slowly into view on the left as we drove through Hays, Kansas earlier this week. The building was made of red brick with a corrugated metal roof. It seemed to branch in several directions from a central hub.

I discovered that when it is your turn to sit in the passenger seat during a nine-hour drive, you have a chance to examine the roadside vista in great detail…

… especially when you are crossing the state of Kansas at 78 miles per hour.

I had just about concluded that I was looking at another collection of storage sheds, or a warehouse of some kind when suddenly I saw him; the man on the bench.

Looking a little more closely, I saw that the bench sat on a patio at the rear of one of those brick buildings. As I studied him, I saw that the man seemed to be older… quite possibly in his 80s. He was wearing a gray, long-sleeved shirt and matching pants. He sat motionless on that bench, content to watch the cars zipping by on Interstate 70 at 2:30 on a late August afternoon.

And then it dawned on me… the building was a retirement home. The man was just doing as he darned well pleased, in between the scheduled mealtimes and organized activities there.

As Hank (the name I gave him on the spur of the moment, just to make him a little less anonymous) faded into the rearview mirror, I couldn’t help but wonder.

– What was Hank thinking about as he sat there?

  • Was he reviewing the chapters of his life and cherishing sweet memories?
  • Was he grieving a departed spouse?
  • Was he nursing regrets about opportunities unrealized in his life?
  • Was he silently chastising children whose visits have become less and less frequent as the years pass?
  • Was he trying to imagine what compelled the drivers of each of those cars on the interstate to pass by his patio and bench?
  • Or was he possibly just whistling a tune from his childhood that somehow resurfaced in his mind?

And as he sat there and quietly reflected on his life and the passing parade, Hank issued me a personal invitation.

He invited me to imagine myself, years hence, in a similar posture.

He invited me to consider how I want to be able to look back on my own life when I have plenty of time to sit and think.

Hank invited me to consider the very real possibility that time spent on a bench, alone with one’s thoughts and memories can, in fact, be a surprisingly opulent gift.

He invited me to drop to my knees and give thanks for the rich web of relationships I am part of, remembering that each of them is time-bound and treasured.

But mostly Hank invited me to remember that my story is part of a larger story… a story that is connected to millions of other stories across time and space. He invited me to make friends with the Mystery Beyond and to recognize that he and I have much more in common than either of us will ever realize.

Thanks, Hank.

I accept your invitation.

06
Feb
19

MINE!

Eating an appleI hoped my wince went unnoticed.

But then I realized I was dealing with one of the most perceptive, most eagle-eyed people God ever created; my wife Joan. And so of course… she saw the wince as soon as it happened.

And in that same moment, I came face-to-face with a persistent, uncomfortable truth about myself.

Namely that I don’t share well. At all.

Hers was a perfectly reasonable request. I was sitting there at the table with Joan, eating and enjoying a luscious, ripe apple.

She then calmly reached out her hand and said, “Let me have a bite.”

And I winced.

I winced because my first gut response to my wife’s request was, “NO! I don’t want to give you a bite of my apple! I have every one of these bites mapped out in my mind and I intend to enjoy every single one of them!”

What a schmoe! I mean, who doesn’t give their spouse – or even an unrelated total stranger for that matter – a small morsel of food if they ask for it?

Which compels me to confess: sharing has been a problem for me for a long time… especially when it comes to sharing food. Sometimes I think I must sound like those seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo continually screaming, “MINE! MINE! MINE!”

And when my sweet wife asks me why I am so singularly bad at this simple human practice, my stock answer is, “Because I was the oldest of five kids! I had to fight tooth and nail for every mouthful at the family dinner table. It was HELL, I tell you!”

But that’s not completely true. Yes, I was the oldest of five kids growing up. Yes, times were tight now and then. But no, none of us were ever as deprived as I sometimes like to portray.

My stinginess bothers me. And yet, it persists.

It also causes me to wonder: is sharing anything like athletic ability… that is, something you’re either born with or not?

Somehow that doesn’t seem right. Surely sharing can be learned, can’t it?

Maybe my problem is that I attach too much importance to the item in question. Maybe – in my feverish and slightly out-of-kilter mind – I imagine that this apple, or this piece of key lime pie, or this book, or this Coca-Cola, or this $20 bill, is the key to my ultimate well being in the world and that letting go of even a small portion of it will do irreparable harm to my soul.

Whatever the case, I am sure my behavior in the matter of sharing is the exact opposite of Christ-like. Because when Jesus sat down and told the people there on the side of the hill, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things…”(Matt. 6:31-32, NRSV), I’m pretty sure he was talking to me, too.

Actually, he is even a little more direct in Luke’s gospel: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.”(Luke 3:11, NRSV).

Busted!

I really don’t have a good answer for the origins of this personality flaw of mine, but maybe “where it came from” isn’t really the important issue here.

Maybe I just need to ask for your prayerful intervention as I simultaneously implore the Holy Spirit to do a little transformational work on me from the inside.

But I am curious…

  • Do you share well?

  • Have you always been a good “share-er”, or did you learn it later in life?

  • What helped you become better at sharing?
22
Oct
18

Drawing a Line

Hello!

I have an assignment for you today.

When you find yourself at a place where you have a little flexibility in your schedule, I would like you to stop and draw me a picture.

I would like you to draw me a picture of a person. Please.

It can be a self-portrait, a picture of your spouse or significant other, a picture of a total stranger, or some mythical person… It doesn’t matter.

And just to take a little pressure off, let me add this one additional condition: you can choose to make your drawing a crude, stick figure person, like this: Stick_figure

OR you can decide to make it a detailed, shaded, textured, nuanced genuine work of art, like this:

Mona Lisa

Totally up to you.

OK?

Alright… so this is not a real assignment. You don’t really HAVE to stop and draw me a picture. (Unless you really, really want to).

But I know that if I were on the receiving end of an assignment like this (a REAL assignment… not just some made-up blogger trick assignment), I know which drawing option I would choose.

Due to both a lack of talent and a lack of motivation, I would choose to produce the quick, stick figure drawing option.

And I think that most of us who aren’t professional portrait artists would do the same, wouldn’t we?

The upside of choosing the “stick figure caricature” option, of course, is that it is MUCH quicker and easier.

The downside is that it is much less accurate… much less helpful.

And while you and I don’t ever receive assignments like this in real life, we DO regularly face a similar choice.

When any of us encounters another human being, we are always faced with the choice of how much time and energy we will invest in creating an accurate, detailed picture of that person.

Whether it is someone we have known for a lifetime or someone we just met 10 minutes ago, we can choose to either quickly sketch a stick-figure caricature of them… OR we can spend the necessary time to develop a detailed, shaded, textured, nuanced portrait.

Yes… option “A” (the stick figure option) is quicker and easier. And so often in today’s world, we are motivated to choose solutions that are quick and easy.

But the quick option is usually not accurate or helpful.

This subject seems particularly relevant today…, as those of us in the U.S. are right in the middle of a white-hot political season.

And you know how it goes with election-time advertising messages: MY favored candidate is always painted with the crudest, boldest “good guy” brush-strokes, while the opposing candidate is painted even more crudely as “the very incarnation of evil.”

Somehow we sense that these “cartoon image” pictures of politicians are not really accurate. And yet, most voters rely on very little besides what they see on TV or hear on the radio when choosing for whom to vote.

In the end, our voting decisions (and PLEASE get out and vote!) are very binary; “YES” to this one, “NO” to this one.

No room for maybes.

Let’s not apply that approach to the other people in our lives, OK? Let’s dare to spend the time to try and understand the mystery, the depth, the multi-hued and deeply layered nature of each person.

Let’s recall that when the Psalmist sings God’s praises and says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” (Psalm 139:14, NRSV), that he also means you, and you, and you, and you, and EVERY person ever.

We also need to remember that you don’t have to be an accomplished artist to consider the rich detail of each person you meet.

 

Abundant Blessings;

30
Jul
18

Stories and Suitcases

Couple with suitcasesI’ve always said, if there’s a suitcase, there’s a story.

Rosie and I were out on our afternoon walk through the neighborhood today. I tried to coax her onto a little longer route than we normally take, but she wasn’t having ANY of it. We had gone scarcely 20 yards into Route B and already she began turning back and tugging the leash in the opposite direction.

I complied (as I usually do) and turned up Grandview Street instead of trying to coerce her further west toward Kessler.

We had gone about a block along Grandview when I looked to the left and noticed a mini-flurry of activity there on the side street.

There I saw a young man and a young woman opening the trunk of a small Toyota sedan. The young man was wearing a gray backpack and pulling a black, rolling-bag suitcase out of the trunk.

The young woman had a small carry on-type bag in her left hand and was already walking ahead, pulling a navy blue suitcase behind her.

The young man closed the trunk of the car and together they began walking toward the front door of one of the houses on the street.

Immediately, a hundred possible explanations for the little vignette I had just witnessed began swirling through my brain; I thought, “This is a young newlywed couple just arriving home from their honeymoon; no… the young woman was returning from a month of study abroad in Italy and her brother – the young man – had driven to the airport to pick her up. All the suitcases, of course, belonged to her.”

Or maybe it was the son and daughter-in-law (or daughter and son-in-law) of the residents of the home, just arriving from Texas for a summer vacation in Overland Park, Kansas! (Because seriously… who wouldn’t?)

Or maybe they were a bright, young coed team of door-to-door suitcase salespeople, just beginning to canvass this block with samples of their wares in tow?

Like I said… show me a suitcase, and I’ll show you a story.

Actually, show me a PERSON and I’ll show you a story.

Seeing that young couple and finding myself speculating on who they were and why they were carrying suitcases made me stop and realize several essential truths about the world:

  • Suitcases in hand or not, each of us is on a journey.
  • And each of us has a story.
  • And each of those stories is richer, more complex, more textured and more filled with meaning and depth than the rest of us (those not living that particular story) can possibly imagine.

Sadly, in these times when social media channels have become our default mechanism of communication, STORY often becomes one of the first casualties.

You see, I can relate to you more quickly and easily if I can pigeonhole you. And I can pigeonhole you more easily if I can turn you into a two-dimensional, cardboard cutout image of yourself.

  • “You’re a liberal!”
  • “You’re a conservative!”
  • “You’re a millennial!”
  • “You’re a women’s libber!” (As if anyone actually uses that phrase anymore!)
  • “You’re gay!”
  • “You’re a religious fanatic!”

The truth is: we are each made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). And being made in God’s image means that we are each COMPLEX, multi-faceted, impenetrable, inscrutable entities… more full of mystery and meaning than anyone might readily like to admit.

And each of us – just like the God who made us – is pretty darned awesome and worthy of a little reverence.

So here is my “thought starter” for you today: if mine is suitcases, what is the thing that makes YOU stop and think about the breadth of another person’s story?

And this: how can each of us resist the temptation to pigeonhole one another?

 

Abundant blessings;




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