That sick feeling…

It was gone. I had gotten my coat dirty and just threw it in the wash to get clean without even thinking. Next time I needed to wear a coat I threw it on, put my hands in my pockets, and immediately got that sick feeling.  You know, that feeling deep in your gut when something precious is gone. Lost? Torn up? Destroyed? It doesn’t matter, that feeling is unmistakable. Not only in your gut, but all over. Because it was lost to me.

papa note 2

It didn’t look important, in fact to anyone else it probably looked like a silly scrap of paper with a few easily replaceable words “I Love You Papa”. But I had carried  that note around for over a year. Every time I felt that piece of paper, pulled it out, and looked at it I was reminded of a little girl who thought I was special. The loss of that note was wrenching. I consoled myself with the thought that she would be happy to write me another if I just asked. But it would never be that original note. And after a while, life continued on like it always does.

Then, just yesterday, I was cleaning out my computer bag after a trip and found it. The note! The joy I felt was like a hot searchlight had lit up my soul. My heart was happy. All over a little scrap of paper. But that scrap of paper was the essence of love.

In Luke 15 Jesus goes through a list of stories that show the joy of being found.  The one sheep that was found, the one coin that was found,  the son that made his way home, all filled with that heart wrenching feeling of loss. The precious item was lost, gone, maybe destroyed. But then, just like my note, they were found, the searing joy lit up the very angels in heaven.

God had come to find them. The ones who needed him the most. The sinners, the ones put down by the religious leaders, the marginalized. The ones who wrote to God in their hearts and their cries. Notes that God sees as the essence of love. The joy of heaven exploded into the world. And what happens in every story? God throws a party! The joy that He feels is so overwhelming that it just has to be shared. The joy that makes my happiness at finding that note again seem tiny.

So in this one small way,  I get a glimpse of God’s joy when He finds the notes I write to tell him I love Him.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23

 

 

 

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The burden…

I  sometimes think that my life is  hard. After all, this travel is so hard on my old bones. But, I am starting this entry while sitting on a plane next to a wonderful lady who is 7 months pregnant and flying alone to see her mother in hospice. Her mother was down under 95 pounds and would not recognize or remember her but she was going anyway.  Just to be there,  just to visit one last time. 

We chatted a bit about her family, her son she was expecting (on the same day my oldest was born) and about her marriage (Her husband was taking care of the children so she could go).  She found out I was married for 40 years and we fist bumped because that’s what she was going for too. 

I said something I hope was comforting and prayed peace over her. She was thankful, gracious, and politely thanked me.

I probably will never see her again, so what’s the point? 

It doesn’t take an earth shattering experience to make a difference.  Sometimes all you have is a listening ear and a gentle word.

I will pray tonight for her,  her mother,  her unborn child,  her marriage,  her children that live,  her children that didn’t live,  her fears for being an older mother,  her safe travels. I may never see her again,  but she gained an advocate. 

Sharing burdens make them lighter. 

I needed a shower…

Some things are memorable on their own sake, some things are memorable for their aftermath, some things are memorable because you don’t know the rest of the story.

There was that one time that I had an entire glass of Diet Coke spilled on me. I know it was a Diet Coke because that is what I had ordered. I also know that it was cold (icy cold in fact), very full, and very wet. I remember that I was sitting with some people from work, celebrating something or other, Just sitting around and talking and laughing and having a good time when, seemingly out of nowhere, i was drenched from my neck down in a fizzy beverage.

spilled

There was a moment of frozen time while I sat there trying to process what had happened and the poor server (she looked like she was in high school at the time) was staring in shocked silence at what had happened. That moment didn’t last long, she blurted out an apology and ran to get the manager and some towels. Now at this point, the meal wasn’t nearly done, we probably had another 30 minutes or so to go before it would be time to go. Since I was wet anyway (and after a couple of minutes it wasn’t too cold),  i decided to stay and finish the meal.

The most shocking thing was the way my fellow employees reacted (this was not my current job by the way). There was some pretty righteous indignation happening. They were practically insisting that I start loudly complaining and demanding a free meal. After all, this was their (the restaurant’s) fault. So I got up, went and found the manager and asked to speak to the server. I remember the look of almost terror on her face as she stumbled to apologize. I simply said, “Please, It’s ok, accidents can happen to anyone.” and left it at that.

Then there was another time on a plane. (If you read barf-bagmy blog you have probably realized that I have traveled a lot in my jobs.). I was travelling with a group from work, but we were not seated together. I believe I was about halfway back and they were near the front. Anyway, about halfway through the 3 hour flight a person in front of me got sick and didn’t get the barf bag out of the seat back in time. It was a pretty large mess in that row of seats and floor and…. yes, my shoes. I was able to ignore the smell for the rest of the flight without any trouble (a bonus travel tip will be at the end of this post), and when we got off I had to excuse myself to go wash off my shoes.

Again, my fellow employees reacted with that same righteous indignation. They could smell it all the way from where they were sitting. Why didn’t I demand a free flight or some other compensation from the airline? Why didn’t I complain loudly enough to get an upgrade or a different (better) seat? What was wrong with me anyway? I simply said “Hey, people sometimes get sick on planes, it wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t the airlines fault”.

In both cases, I just left it.

Rarely do I know what the impact of my actions are. In these cases I only know a little bit. The look of relief on a restaurant servers face, the rather odd look that the restaurant manager gave me (in full disclosure, the manager did give me a gift certificate, not from my asking for one), the looks of indignation and disdain from my colleagues from work. And that’s it. Just those looks. No free flights, or seat upgrades, no fawning attention, or demanded apologies from anyone. Just doing the right thing because it was the right thing. Not expecting or demanding anything in return. Just trying to build up (or at least not tear down) others around me. And that was my reward, and really, the only reward I really wanted.

Because that is what is really about. How can I take the negative things that happen in the world and turn them around into a positive for God. Where is the love in these scenarios? I choose not to be indignant. I choose not to be offended. I choose not to berate or abuse someone. I choose to show love in some way.

Oh, and one more thing, in both cases: I really needed a shower afterward.

P.S. Bonus Travel Tip

I always carry a small tube of Vicks VapoRub with me in case someone gets air sick. If you act quickly and can put a dab of that in each nostril then VapoRub becomes pretty much all your senses can handle and the smell of someone getting sick around you will become much much less and pretty manageable (especially if you can look in a different direction).

I never win anything…

My favorite catch phrase whenever there is a drawing or a raffle or a prize giveaway is that “I never win anything.”. If any of my family or close friends are nearby, I always get an eye-roll. Because I win a lot. Airline tickets (twice), a laptop computer, an Xbox, and more little stuff than I can remember.

It started back in college, there was a little kid selling raffle tickets for something, I don’t even remember the cause, and a couple of days later someone tracked me down and told me that I has won $100 worth of groceries.

Today I have trouble getting out of the grocery store without spending $100, but 42 years ago $100 was a much more substantial amount. So here I was, living in a dorm with little storage and not even a refrigerator and a more than generous allowance of free food.

So, of course, I got a ride and went to collect my prize. After I arrived at the store and explained the situation they agreed to let me have the $100 on a tab and buy food over the course of the semester. And I went back to the dorm with a generous allotment of candy.

That is pretty much how it went, buying candy once a week or so (although I did buy a turkey to give to a family before Thanksgiving). Then one sad day the inevitable happened and the money ran out.

I was suddenly thrust back on my own resources and had to be concerned about whether I had enough cash if I wanted to buy something. No more free stuff.

This memory comes back to me every time I win something, but I recently applied it to a different free gift I have gotten, Grace. The two really only have a little bit in common. To me, it is a study in contrasts, the way we get free stuff here and the way God gives free stuff.

I had to buy a ticket to win groceries with absolutely no assurance of winning; Grace only requires my faith and the absolute assurance of getting Grace from God every time. My free food was a burden to someone with no storage; Grace always has room. My groceries were doled out over several months; Grace was given fully and completely all at once. The differences go on and on.

The biggest difference? My ability to walk into the store without a care in the world and leave with some food ran out one day; Grace never runs out.

I don’t know if I will continue to win things or not ( even though I did just win at the company bingo game last week) but I know that I will never appreciate anything I get for “free” anywhere near as much as I appreciate the really free gift of Grace.

God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor 1:9

The Arguer…

Recently I was called an Arguer. I won’t go into the details of that encounter, but it hurt me. It hurt mainly because it has been so true. I have always had a leaning towards arguing. I was good a it too, I could reduce someone’s position to ashes with just a few well placed barbs. And be proud of it as well. So why the pain? Because I have come to recognize that arguing quality in myself, looked at it critically and decided that I no longer wanted to play that game. I rejected the need to convince others that I was right.

That may sound funny coming from a person whose job is to persuade people to work together to plan out the future. However I no longer want to be right above all else. I learned that when being right became that important to me it became an idol. Like any idol it reduced the available space for the spirit in my life so much that no good things could happen.

Since i am writing this 30,000 feet up on a brand new jetliner I have the perfect illustration. You may not realize it, but being on a new plane is not necessarily the best thing to happen to an airline passenger. If you don’t travel you might think just the opposite. In reality, the new planes have their seats so close together that movement becomes next to impossible. At least on an older plane they can’t reduce the width of the seats, but on a new that is not true, they pack them in across as closely as they can get them and still get people to buy a seat. Here is an actual photo of my leg room today.

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This is actually before the person in front of me reclined their seat. That really took the space away (I didn’t take a picture of the side to side space out of respect foe my fellow passengers privacy). Yes I was able to work on this post (at least the guts of it) in my seat, however it is chock full of misspellings, bad grammar and horrible thought flow. It will require extensive editing to be in a publishable state.

This speaks to the real meat of my decision. I didn’t have enough roon left inside me for the Spirit to do any sort of quality work on me. I was full of misspellings, bad grammer and horrible thought flow. The amazing thing was that the spirit was able to do anything at all! But one thing about God is true, he doesn’t give up on us. The Spirit pushed and pressed and stretched me enough that I could make the decision that arguing was not in my own best interest or in any way bringing glory to God or building others up. And when I say the Spirit was pushing and pressing and stretching me, I don’t mean in a gentle soft massaging sort of way. To be blunt: it hurt! A lot! Physical pain from holding anger and guilt inside me and mental/spiritual hurt from the reactions of those I love and those i didn’t love.

I eventually arrived at a destination. My decision to give up on arguing in my life, my getting off a cramped plane seat in travel. And I feel better for both. But life doesn’t stand still. I have other “idols”. Things that reduce the space in me for the Spirit. And I have more cities to fly to, more cramped airline seats to got. My hope right now is that I can take what I learned from the Spirit trying to make room in me and more quickly apply it to other decisions. And , of course, that the person in front of me doesn’t recline the seat all the way 😉 .

 

God is glfniRo

Even though we don’t like to talk about it  we know that God is glfniRo. He is so glfniRo that he surpasses all our understanding of glfniRoness.  He is the essence of glfniRo. He is always moving in the world glfniRoning in every place and in every way.

glfniRo

Language can’t express all the aspects of God. He is so beyond our understanding that we are not able to find the words to describe even one aspect of God fully. Look at the words that God uses to talk about himself, Love, Provider, Peace, the list goes on and on, hundreds of words in the bible that talk about the nature of God. And yet, they are not enough.

Don’t bother to try to look it up, glfniRo is a made up word (and believe me, it was not easy finding a random bunch of letters that don’t mean “something” in some language). But that doesn’t make it meaningless. Because God is also undefined. When we try to define God we are really putting him in a box. And guess what? God doesn’t fit in a box. He tells us something about him to get us to a partial understanding of part of His nature. But in the end, it is still a box.  You might as well say that God is glfniRo as well as anything else that God is.

Some of our recent discussions at church recently have talked about “Absolute Truth”. Here is my definition of “Absolute Truth”. Ready?  … God …  Just… God. Everything else is an inadequate estimation of God. We can say that God is Love is absolute truth and that is correct, but not all. We can say the God is Peace is absolute truth and that is correct, but also not all. Isaiah came face to face with this concept in the old testament:  Isaiah 55:8-9  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Does that mean that we should not even try to understand God? No, the lesson I get from this is that we should not try to force our understanding of God on others. Because the words that we use to describe God are so imperfect, they can mean different things to different people. Sure, we can discuss and learn different ways of thinking about God from others, but , in the end, our own understanding of God is just that: our own. God works with each of us in the language that we understand best (or need the most).

God is personal, God is glfniRo.

The Trip…

It’s been almost 36 years since my first business trip. I have been thinking about that upcoming milestone as I am away from home on the latest in a long line of business trips. As I was thinking about it, I realized that it’s not one that I feel particularly proud of, but, it is a milestone never-the-less. In case you haven’t figured it out from the rest of my blog yet, I am past my youth.

I remember that first trip well, mainly for how naïve and inexperienced I was. It was a trip to Houston for a training session. I didn’t find out until I arrived that I was so young I was not even eligible to rent a car. I don’t know if they still have those rules or not, but it came as a big surprise for me. On top of that the weather turned out to be terrible, there was actually a freak ice storm that pretty much shut the city down for a couple of days.

The amazing thing? I didn’t worry or fret or any of those things that would normally accompany a trip with so many things going wrong. Today, (and I am known as a
very laid back traveler) with so many things going wrong I would have been completely frustrated and trying not to show it.

After all these years, I wanted to recapture that attitude. I wanted to use it not only for  travel, but for the rest of my life as well. I wanted to be able to face any situation that is not going the way that it is supposed to go and just be able to say “wow, I’m not sure what to do, I guess I will call someone to help me or just wait and see how it turns out”.

During that trip that is exactly what I did (and I haven’t listed a lot of the other things that I learned about on that trip). I called back to the main office about the car and let them take care of it. Or at least tell me what I needed to do. As for the ice storm, it was pretty to look at, so that’s what I did. After all, the whole city was shut down and I couldn’t really do anything else, including traveling back home.

So where did that attitude go? It disappeared to “experience”, the wonder and newness wore off, the loneliness sets in, and slowly, slowly I became jaded about travel.

Image result for business travel

The same thing happened in life. Where did that sense of wonder go? That slack-jawed awe that comes with new experiences? Slowly, slowly, “experience” crept in, the wonder and newness wore off, and I became jaded about life.

But, that loss of wonder was not irreversible. There was something that could and did make things look new and wonderful again. I had a promise of renewal. 2 Cor. 4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

Just like when I called back to the home office for work, I can ask for help from God, let Him take care of it at the real “home office”, or let Him tell me what to do. I can sit and watch the wonders of life around me and just say “wow, what just happened, I guess I will wait and see how that turns out?”. Because, just like that ice storm, things happen that I have absolutely no control over, in fact, just like the ice storm, things happen that have the power to force me to stop. And in those times, it all comes down to how I deal with it. It is my choice. My choice to accept the renewal of my spirit or to reject it.

I choose to accept.