Sunday, October 9, 2011

On Being Challenged

Sometimes life is fairly benign and just rocks along.  And other times you end up laughing at some of what is in front of you.  I may as well laugh.  Life being what it'll have two choices...laugh or cry.  I'm going to pick "laugh" every time that it is on the answer sheet.

I realize that there is a time to cry and a time to mourn...and for those of you who are dealing with monumental issues...this post is not for you.  This is for the rest of us who are in what probably feels like an alternate universe to you.  We're the ones who are blowing our horns at stupid drivers and those incredibly annoying bikers who insist on riding on the no-shoulder two lane road with a 55 mile speed limit for which my town is named.

The many...the annoyed...the judgmental.

Today I was sitting in Sunday School and was convicted of a few things that boil down to the fact that I do not tend to follow the spiritual disciplines as I should.  I read my Bible (often...but it is usually a devotional rather than direct immersion in the Word), pray (frequently...and most of the time when I am asked to do so for someone...note the use of the word "most"), and I try to serve when I can (although I'm best serving in areas that are actually helpful...which is cleaning up, organizing, planning, and anything involving paper or a computer).  But in some areas...such as showing mercy or, no.

Um, a huge understatement.

I tend to be one of those people who can leave church all filled to the brim, and find myself sloshing over because some moron pulls out in front of the car.  Oops...down to 3/4 full.  Then I go to somewhere like WalMart...and find myself down to mere drops by the time I've waited two hours to check out and load my purchases into the trunk of the car.  Quicker if it is raining, is above 80 degrees, or if - heaven forbid - they are out of whatever I've braved the wilds of WalMart to bag and drag home.

Apparently I'm not the most judgmental person about WalMart, though, seeing as there is an entire website devoted to the "People of WalMart" including some gems such as...
No.  Just no.

Brush...available on aisle 21.  Or not.
This is why the rumors just won't die.

Okay, so me going there with no makeup on is fairly tame, yes?  Of course, if I do, I am 100% guaranteed to run into someone that I know. 

I was convicted today in Sunday School that I need to be just a little less judgmental.  Okay, a LOT less.  But the truth is...I have always considered myself non-judgmental.  And about most things I am.  I realize that we don't see the world the same way, and that God is dealing with all of us on different levels all of the time.  I have friends of all ages and backgrounds...and I'm blessed because of it.  I don't expect perfection out of other people nor do I tend to assume the worst about anyone unless they have given me good reason to in our past dealings. 

But just pull out in front of my car, name your kid something I can't spell, don biking shorts and a helmet and ride on Pike Road, or work in the service industry and fail to serve...well...

Let's just say that it isn't pretty.  So much so that I refer to this as "going Towanda."  Surely we all remember close encounters of the FTD kind from February 2011. 


So, I've been challenged to stop myself in mid-judgment.  To start recognizing that I have a tendency to do this that is so ingrained that I don't even see it anymore.  I just respond in an unloving and unmerciful way in certain situations.  Maybe not out loud...but definitely in my head.

Okay, and sometimes out loud. 

I also realized that I don't practice the spiritual discipline of EVER. That's because fasting involves not eating.  I have to work on that one too.

That's my challenge for the week.  To read my bible every day, be less judgmental, and to fast (one meal is about all I think I can handle at this point) sometime this week.  Fortunately - I am on vacation.

What kind of moron plans a fast while they are on vacation? 

See, that whole "judging" thing is a little tough to navigate, isn't it?

Don't answer that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On Excellence

Life being what it is, sometimes it takes an event to make us stop and have one of those "aha" moments.  You know the ones I'm referring to...where you are pondering something one moment, and then the next moment you are delivered a quiet thought that takes your breath away.  That whole "taking your breath away" thing is something that I've come to really love in this life. 

Not the "taking your breath away" thing that comes from exercise...but sometimes that too.  I found out a kid that I think a lot of ran a half marathon this week just because he thought it would be a good idea.  This is the same kid that I've watched do such things as become the president of his fraternity at University of Alabama, own his own company, get into one of the most prestigious honor societies at UA, figure out how to get through college and graduate school (academically and financially) and find his way into a good job with a lot of upward mobility.

You see...what will take my breath away every time is excellence.

I was sitting here yesterday reading numerous rememberances of Steve Jobs - the founder of Apple and co-founder of Pixar.  Two days ago...the day he died...I heard reports that folks weren't as "wowed" by the rollout of the iPhone 4S as was hoped...primarily because the iPhone 5 was anticipated.  So, in my infinite wisdom, I heard that and thought..."hey, think I'll buy a little bit of Apple stock in my IRA today."  And I did.  While watching the news, I heard that Steve Jobs had died.  On many levels, it is sad news to hear.  He revolutionized the way that people live with technology, and was an expert marketer.  On a professional level, he was one of the most amazing people of our time, and someone who had the ability to be both a dreamer and a doer.   That last thought isn't original, by the way, but to try to determine who wrote that among the many - and varied - stories I read yesterday would be quite impossible.  But that is true.  So many of us have the ability to be one or the other...but lightning tends to strike with those people who have the capacity to be both.

To be excellent.

As I was sitting there yesterday I realized the common thread of what everyone was writing about Steve Jobs.  That little whisper of truth that told me...everyone has the capacity for excellence within them.

I know that most of us recognize excellence when we see it a five year old drummer on YouTube or a National Championship football team.  Maybe we've eaten in 5-star restaurants, or had our heart catch in our throat when we see a bride walk up the aisle toward her groom.  Perhaps it is in that perfect day like I had recently at the beach with three high school friends as we talked and laughed as the waves came.  The water was clear and cool and refreshing, the sky was a gorgeous blue and the conversation was lively.

We watch the Olympics and get teary when one of our own stands on a podium waving to the crowd with a medal shining brightly.  We hear that our daughter's friend and sorority sister is on the Homecoming Court and we are so happy that such a bright and wonderful girl has been recognized in this way.  We see a kid who is not the biggest on the team by any stretch of the imagination break school records...and even state records because he has found a way to catch a ball and run like the wind week after week...year after year. 

I know that most of the people that I admire deeply have one thing in common...they are excellent at what they do.  Some of them are public figures like Rush Limbaugh or Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighters)...or Steve Jobs.  You may not agree with what they do...but you must at least recognize that they are among the best at their chosen professions.  That's how I see it anyway.

But for most of us...those glimpses of excellence are closer to home.  My friend who makes the best strawberry cupcakes and pound cake you will ever put in your mouth.  Another makes brownies that are so good that you'll blow your diet and won't even whimper.  A lady in town makes such a wonderful peanunt butter fudge cake that I actually look forward to a coworker's birthday.

There is excellence in art...such as my friends who paint beautiful pieces that I find so utterly amazing and friends who capture beauty in the medium of photography.  Another friend decorates her yard with gorgeous daylilies, and offers to share her expertise (and flowers) with others.  One friend makes the most gorgeous handmade cards you have ever seen.  I have friends that can decorate, write poetry, manage the details of life as a caregiver, sing, act, play musical instruments, and even serve with excellence.  Some do their jobs with excellence...some employ their talents...while others just do everything that they touch in a way that exceeds expectations.   

I am blessed to have them in my life, you know. 

I think that sometimes we tend to forget that each of us has a spark of that genius within us.  We see our gifts as either not what we wanted to be able to offer or something that certainly isn't a gamechanger.  Because we all long to be valuable and significant...we may get frustrated over time that what we have to work with certainly isn't what we'd hoped.  Sometimes we think that it really doesn't matter...and that we may as well cut a corner or two...because who will know?

Answer: We will know.  God will know.

Whatever it is that you do in this it with excellence.  If you already do...good for you!  But if you are having one of those times when you think you're a bit invisible...remember that you honestly never know who is watching you here...and that someone is always watching you in spirit. 


So, for those of you who "wow" me with your excellence every day...thank you.  Thank you for being an inspiration and for making me want to do more and be more.  Don't ever think that your contribution is too small or unnoticed.  Just keep being excellent at what you do.  After never know who you might inspire as you do.