When Seth Mooney was born a healthy beautiful boy his parents thanked the doctors and nurses who performed the delivery, the attendant who pushed Mom’s wheelchair to the waiting car, and almost every neighbor who stopped by the next week to give their congratulations. They thanked the Pharmacist, their grocer, the nice lady at Target who sold them diapers, wipes, lotion and a dozen other necessities for young Seth. They even thanked the mailman who delivered the letter and packages from family and friends across the country. But they didn’t thank God for the most amazing miracle ever to happen to their young family. The Mooney’s are not unbelievers; they’ve been to church. No the Mooney’s are part of the growing minority of people who thank their friends for a miracle from God.
The Southwest flight from Phoenix landed in Sacramento on-time that Thursday night; a welcome end to a long and hot trip as witnessed by the sweat stains on the collar of Brad Smith’s white button down shirt. Why do I ever wear long sleeves to Arizona? Because his boss thinks it’s more professional than wearing a polo shirt, even though it was 102 degrees by 9:00 am this morning, and his last sales call ended at 6:15 that evening (with a resounding and fully anticipate NO!) Clearly rejection is professional when wearing a damp and smelly long sleeve shirt Brad thought as the plane landed.
The mechanical lady’s voice coming from the speaker on the air conditioned shuttle told Brad that he was headed toward the main terminal. Rather than go straight to his car parked on the 5th level, which was normal, he was headed downstairs to retrieve his suitcase from the lower level. The jogging gear Brad packed but did not use rendered his overhead bin sized suitcase too small, so he used the bigger one; ( note to Brad – stop pretending you will ever exercise while traveling when all hotels that you stay at have a bar). The shuttle stopped when Brad wasn’t paying attention and he bumped the lady next to him.
We are over half way through the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed; but football playoffs, the Superbowl, and New Year’s Eve and Day are waiting to pounce on us like Mardi Gras on an unsuspecting tourist. The stress of having to watch all the bowl games, NFL playoffs, go to the many celebrations, and eat and drink beyond sanity is too much to bear for some. Adding salt to a wound, many of our employers expect us to function at work as if nothing else was happening outside the grey walls of industrial servitude. What are we to do? Give up; stay inside and watch reruns? Buy a gross of antacids and hope for the best? No! Giving up is not in our DNA and hope is not a plan (unless you are in the Federal Government). I have tested four strategies which will help you to survive the holiday season and escape to the doldrums of January physically unscathed and mentally neutral.
Coming down the escalator to the terminal’s ground floor I could see the rain falling hard against the massive windows that made up the wall on the east side of the building. Outside, standing curbside waiting for the shuttle bus that would take me to the rental car facility; I came into personal contact with the cold, wet and very windy night. It was not cold enough to turn the rain into snow, but it was cold enough that it did not matter. After a long day of waiting, hurrying, dragging bags, stuffing overhead bins, and eating pretzels, I was tired and not looking forward to the 45 minute drive to my hotel. Still, real food and a warm bed was sufficient motivation to keep me moving.
I was moderately wet by the time I found myself in the driver’s seat of a foreign made “full sized” car. If this was a full sized car, I could not imagine how small a compact could be. Once I had located the lights switch, wipers, programed the GPS system, and adjusted the mirrors I was ready to go. I was driving in one of those states in the east where they did not know what a Bots Dot, or a reflector on the road was, or even reflective paint. On the pot hole filled road leading to the highway, I was having too much trouble distinguishing my lane from the one to my right or left; fortunately it was late and not too many cars were on the road. My lack of clarity was beginning to unnerve me, not to mention twice the harsh voice on the GPS box had informed me that it was recalculating my route because I had missed a turn.
Is it just me, or does the world want more out of us, but continues to offer less in return? Are we paying more for what was a free service only a few years ago? Flying is a perfect example of the negative change in the cost to value relationship of so many services or products we use. Flying used to be a luxurious form of transportation: good food, free movies, and big suitcases – a pampered existence for a few exciting hours. Now, you pay extra to bring clothes to your destination, unless you can squeeze them into a lunchbox sized carryon; if you are hungry, then bring your own food, and if you want entertainment, bring a credit card. The cost is up and the value is down. When I was young, ice cream was sold in a 4-quart container; we called it a gallon of ice cream. Now, since the makers of the ice cream have grown weary of raising prices, they have decreased the amount sold to 3.5 quarts. Since when is 3.5 quarts equal to a gallon? Everywhere, we are asked to pay more, and offered less in return – except in our transactions with God. His cost has stayed the same, and His value has not tarnished. His gifts are free and the value is immeasurable. Yet, even with a cost to value relationship so tilted in our favor, the darkness in this world wins too often, so we believers need to do more. The amount of pain, sickness, and hurt; the abandonment of all things Christian by governments big and small, and the stress of living in uncertain economic and political times, calls us to do more. We, who believe in God, must dig deeper to help those who do not know how, or where to dig. We need to sharpen our spoons.
This German folk tune, later sung by a host of musicians including Peter, Paul, and Mary, asks a very good question in its title; “Where have all the flowers gone?” Throughout the song, the songwriter misplaces a multitude of people and things – I used to sing this song in my eighth grade German class. Listening to the tune brought back a memory of the last time I “lost” my keys. All of us have lost our keys, books, wallet or purse, only to find the missing artifact in some obvious place a few moments, or hours later. We are amazed to think that we could have overlooked during our frantic search a set of keys sitting on the kitchen table. Could the keys have become invisible for two hours, and then just reappeared? Is there a wormhole to a distant universe in my kitchen? Or maybe, when we lose, or temporarily misplace something, it is because we have forgotten where ‘it’ came from and how to find ‘it’ once it has become missing?
The title of this piece is either a double entry (which should be caught by spell check), or the writer is finally showing signs of his age. Or perhaps the meaning is exactly as it is written. Fast fast could mean to hurry hurry, now now, or to run very fast; and I mean very fast. Or, since fasting in the Biblical sense means to abstain from eating (mostly), the title could mean to not eat at all, nothing, nada: no food whatsoever. Combining the two definitions would mean to hurry up and not eat. Personally, I love to eat; so I wonder why I might desire to quickly move towards something that I don’t want to do. In reality, I would drag myself in the slowest possible fashion towards a goal of eating less, let alone not eating at all. So maybe there is another choice.
As the year ends and we transition to another, it is commonplace to reflect on what we have done, and what we have left undone. Too often though, reflection on the past morphs into a self-inflicted mental beating, centered on our perceived shortcomings. We tend to focus on the bad, and forget about the good we have done. The discussion becomes a stream of, “I didn’t…”
I didn’t lose ten pounds.
I didn’t get that promotion.
I didn’t find full time work.
I didn’t save, or invest as I had planned.
I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t……
A little negativity can erase a lot of greatness, if we let it. Our pastor spoke about this phenomenon in an excellent sermon, and I’m sharing just two if his thoughts, but they are very important. When the “I didn’t” takes over, remember:
You are better than you think you are
You matter more than you think you do
Why? Because it is true, and because God said so. We are not the center of the universe, God is. But, sometimes we are much closer to the center than we think.
Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading.
STARTING NEXT WEEK, RATHER THAN SENDING THE ENTIRE MESSAGE IN AN EMAIL, I WILL BE SENDING A LINK BACK TO MY WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN READ IT. I PROMISE IT WILL BE EASY AND FAST. – Michael
In the shopping mall, or in the parking lot adjacent to the mall, as we approach Christmas Day the intensity increases in almost geometric proportions. In other words, it can get pretty nasty out there. Not with everyone, and not to astronomic levels, but on average the anxiety index goes up as we near the big day. And, if you are one who believes that welcoming the New Year is the second most important day of the year, then the stress will last until sometime in January. There are moments, perhaps days, when the stress dissipates, allowing joy to sneak past the barriers of hurry and rush, bringing forth that smile for which we all search. Why are all of us so determined to self-inflict stress, drama, anxiety, and heartache into the holiday season? Could it be our unnatural, yet all-encompassing need for perfection? Everything needs to be just right. The need for “right” usually isn’t even for us; it not an “about me” complex that rules the emotional landmines cluttering the shopping, cooking, and decorating scheduled for today. No, we need everything to be just right for everyone else. It is the giving part of our celebration which provides such amazing joy and unprecedented weariness in the same instant; it’s the Yin and Yang of Christmas. I say it is time to keep the Ying (amazing joy) and throw out the Yang. I am promoting the idea that not being perfect is okay. Imperfection is the pavement on the road to happiness.