Driven By Anger…

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Today I was on my way back home from running some errands, and as I got close to my turnoff, I needed to get in my left lane. I had accelerated enough to get in front of the left lane car, and safely moved to the left as I approached the traffic light. I was at least 2 car lengths ahead of the car behind me – he didn’t have to make any sudden moves, slam on his brakes, or anything. I stopped at the light and as I looked in my rear view mirror, the guy behind me was flipping me off. I did nothing wrong, but apparently my attempt to get in front of him was just too much for him. He could see that I was looking in my mirrors, so he took the opportunity to “chew me out” – actually, it was kind of comical, because I couldn’t hear a word he said, but he continued to voice his displeasure that he was one car length further from the light than he had hoped…

Yesterday I saw a news clip of two men who decided to beat each other with bats and sticks while stopped at a light… at least they were nice enough to get back in their cars when the light turned green so they didn’t hold up traffic.

We are listening to presidential candidates talking about “bombing the h*ll out of our adversaries… local terrorists taking over government buildings, saying they will fight anyone who tries to get them out, and every day someone is posting a video of a fight on Facebook. How have we become such an angry society?

What do we get for our anger? The guy behind me, for all of his shouting and gesturing, didn’t change his situation, didn’t change me, and didn’t effect anyone around him. I wasn’t intimidated by his outrage, and ultimately, he lost no time getting to his destination. Yet I imagine him wanting to tell someone about his incident, how he responded so that the person listening can also be angry at some unknown person. We bring people into our anger so we can keep it longer, rather than dealing with why we are angry in the first place.

Now, I am not saying that we should never be angry. In fact, in scripture it says, “be angry“. Huh? Really? I can be a Christian and be angry? Seems totally out of line with anything I have ever been taught. Well, “be angry” is balanced with “do not sin”. Basically, we can be angry about certain situations, but in our anger we need to look for the right response. Will our anger cause us to do anything to dishonor our relationship with God, or to dishonor others? If so, we need to choose another way.

“Well, maybe I won’t act out right away, but I will certainly tell others about my experience… I’m not just gonna let this go…” There is one last part of the scriptural equation that helps us with that too. It says, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Basically, don’t hold on to your anger. “What? Did you see what that person did to me?” Not negating the wrong that may have been done, but does it make sense to live trapped in the incident, or deal with it, get past it and live in freedom?  According to NHTSA, 66% of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, 37% of all aggressive driving incidents involve a gun, and half the people who are on the receiving end of aggressive behavior respond in kind. So, angry people create more angry people, and more and more people get hurt and/or killed because of things that may not be that serious… because we feel we have a right to hold on to our anger and act out of that anger. And this is only road rage… you can see incidents of domestic violence, racial tension, war… all because we choose to remain in anger rather than dealing with the situation and seeking a resolution.

If you are lucky enough to find a bookstore, you will see volumes written on the subject of dealing with anger. There are some simple steps that seem to be part of the core of addressing anger, the first is think before you act. When we take time to think – not rehashing the incident in our mind, but thinking holistically, about our feelings, about the other person, and the intent (if any) they had, our response to being angry may very often change. Think about the person who cut you off… had they not, how much faster would you have gotten to your destination? What was the person dealing with at the time? Maybe they just got laid off, or were rushing to the aid of a loved one. Who knows… bottom line, it’s rare that the person has it in for us. Maybe they just need some gentle correction.

Healthy anger is good, because it shows us that we do care for things and people, and recognize when a wrong has been done. But we have to keep it healthy so that it becomes productive in the lives of everyone who is affected by it.

Notable Notables

I love these two videos, cuz they give us perspective about life and situations that we might not normally consider.

Seeing The Master: Perspective from a Pooch

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The other day I received a call from my best friend: her dog, who has always been good about staying in the yard had found an opening in the fence and “decided to explore”. It was late at night, and where he had gone was unknown territory to both my friend and her dog. It was a pretty frantic time with a lot of prayer going on that nothing bad happened to him. Good news, he was found, “up the road, around the corner and down the street”. When she found him, he was shaking, obviously scared, and I imagine he was thinking the entire time, “I’m sure this is how I get back home”.

Being lost is probably the worst feeling of all. Actually, I would expand that to “lostness”… the feeling that loss produces. I remember a time when my kids were young and I was in the store with them and one wandered off. Outside I was “calm”, but inside my world was crumbling. I had to do everything I could to keep my mind together as I went aisle after aisle looking for my child. He hadn’t gone far, thank God, but even that far was too far for me.

Yesterday I sat on the rocks at Muir Beach, contemplating life, relationships, and what God was doing in me. As I sat, I looked to my right to find a dog investigating the area around me. I called to the dog, but he basically ignored me, doing two things: investigating the area and checking for the location and direction of his owner. His owner appeared unfazed by the location of his dog, walking along the edge of the tide and taking in all that Muir Beach had to offer. As he walked, the dog would occasionally look up, make sure he wasn’t too far off, then go about exploring again. When the man turned direction and started heading back where he came from, the dog did the same – not right next to the man, but continued to explore… just in the new direction.

As I think about it, I can relate to both dogs. I remember asking my friend, “as long as he has been in the yard, why would he decide now to explore the gap in the fence?” Sometimes I guess we assume we are in proximity to our owner, but don’t realize how easy it is to lose sight. The other dog’s situation intrigued me. From my vantage point, the owner seemed totally unconcerned with the dog’s whereabouts, being more focused on the rocky terrain he was walking. If the dog “were me”, he might think, “doesn’t he even care where I am? I can just wander off like this… and look – see how close I am to this other human? He’s not even looking at me. Does he even love me?”

As I considered them though, I took note of something that really should be part of my life as a Christian. It wasn’t that the owner was unconcerned or unloving. The owner knew his dog – knew him enough to let him roam, knowing that neither the dog nor the owner would go too far from each other. The dog always checked in, looking for the owner, and the owner made sure to be visible to the dog.

I am reminded of the story of the prodigals – the son that took his inheritance, and the son that forgot what his inheritance was. The older son always gets me because he focuses on the younger son who got out of the fence, but he fails to see that he stopped checking for the location and direction of the father. His father’s response to him is priceless: “my son, you are always with me.” Just like the dog owner, where the dog was free to roam knowing he was still with his owner, the son was “free to flourish” in the presence of the Father, even when it seemed like the Father wasn’t looking. The son didn’t need to see it so much as he needed to know it.

When the younger prodigal came back, I’m sure he was nervous. The father was so loving and gracious that he covered him with his best robe. When my friend found her dog, she covered him with her love and assurance that he was ok. God does the same with us, easing our fears and settling us into the robe of his love.

So, I will continue to look up, seeing that God is not too far off, and even if it doesn’t look like he is concerned with me, I will know he is because of his unchanging love. And in those times that I stupidly wander out of the gate, I know that when he finds me, he will cover me with his robe of love and acceptance.

 

When What Is Right Is Not Right

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This morning on my way to church I stopped off at Starbucks as part of my normal routine: London Fog latte (2 bags, 4 shots of vanilla) and a Blueberry Yogurt muffin. I’m not a big Starbucks guy, but one thing I do love: the app. I’m hooked on the thing. I like being able to pay from my phone, and the rewards make it even better.

I got out of the car with nothing but my phone, cuz I knew I didn’t need cash or card… just my app. But something wasn’t right… I could feel it. I thought I should probably take my wallet just in case, or at least ensure that the app was fully charged. So before I went into the store, I fired up the app to check the balance. Rather than give me my balance, the app said something about connecting to the server, and presented me with a login screen… huh?

Ok, no problem, I know sometimes apps log themselves out. I’ll just log in real quick, and… login error… username/password do not match. What?!? I know my username and my password… maybe I just slipped, so I will do it slowly…

login error…

Grrr… Ok, I am turning on the password view so I can see it when I go to login…

login error…

This is crazy! I know this is the right password. Maybe my phone is freaking out, so I will reboot it, so it clears its cache. Ok, reboot done, now to login again…

You know what I’m gonna say before I say it, right? Yes… login error…

At this point I am beginning to doubt my memory. Maybe I do have it wrong. Maybe I just need to reset it and start fresh. My stubbornness had me keep trying. Even as I approached the cashier with card in hand, I was still trying to make this work.

What happens when things in our lives that we know are right just don’t look right? Job was a dude that struggled with this (Job, Kenneth, insert your name here). Job was living right, doing what he was supposed to do, and yet his life was crashing around him. No matter how many times he rebooted, his life just kept failing. Problem after problem emerged, and they just kept getting worse. Job’s cry: “I know I’m right, but I know you (God) are also right, and I just don’t understand…

His friends were like the app. They said “login error… Job, you must have done something wrong for all this to happen”. That is the most frustrating thing, especially when you know you haven’t. Eventually, my app started working, and like Kyle Broflovski, I learned something today:

  • Seek to understand, not to blame – when Job was looking for a reason for the junk, he and his friends looked at who was at fault. For his friends, it was Job’s fault. For Job, he didn’t want to blame God, but he knew he couldn’t blame himself. God however came to Job and basically said, “let me give you some information to help you understand this.” When fault is not the goal but understanding is, learning can happen. My daughter Imani hosted a TED chat on education (via Twitter), and one of the themes that came out early and often was to make education not focused on failing and fault, but on trying and learning from the attempts. Understanding opens the mind to all opportunities… blame closes us off to everything and prevents us from moving forward.
  • Practice patience – The problem wasn’t me, or my password, or the app itself per se. It was timing. There was something in the connection of the app to the server that wasn’t authenticating. Because the app didn’t know how to interpret that, it said there was a login error. Had I just been patient, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.
  • Focus on the end goal, not on the path to the goal – Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is absolutely true. At the same time however, there are some times where we need to focus on goals, or destinations. Truthfully, I probably would not get Starbucks as much as I do had I not gotten the app. I’m not the only one either… Starbucks sees around 7 million mobile payments per week. But I didn’t need to use the app. I had cash and cards, and missing one purchase on my app wasn’t going to affect my rewards all that much.

Finally, as 38 Special says, “hold on loosely, but don’t let go”. :-)

I knew I was right, but I had to be open to learn something about me, about the app, and to receive correction if needed. When Job received his correction (which wasn’t telling him he was wrong, only that he needed a larger perspective), he was in a place to pray for his friends. We can have something to give when we are ready to receive, even in those situations where we really are right.

De-scripting Customer Service

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I have been involved in customer service for most of my career. The blessing and curse of this is that I can easily recognize when I am on the receiving end of very bad customer service. Such was the case when I had to call a company because I suspected foul play with my account. Now, each person I spoke with was very polite… actually too polite. See, their politeness was not genuine – it was scripted. Person after person thanked me, apologized to me, and never heard a word I said. In fact, they apologized so much that they were cutting me off, interrupting me as I tried to explain the actual issue – I had to tell one person to stop apologizing.

How did we get to the point where what we tried to accomplish by being nice turned into a scripted training exercise devoid of real human emotion or contact? What’s more, who do we think we are fooling with this over abundance of manners when nothing is actually getting done?

According to a couple studies by University of Utah David Eccles School of Business, not all customer interactions that involve scripted conversations are bad. In fact, in certain situations, customers don’t mind. These situations are pretty standard, where there is a need for the checklist. Checking into a hotel is a situation where you would expect a warm greeting, get asked the same questions, and receive the same information as to elevators, rooms, etc. If however a customer has a problem, or needs to be heard, or if the interaction is complex, scripting often gets in the way. Take the example of a network manager trying to troubleshoot a problem with a vendor. First line tech support teams are often given a script to ask basic questions, regardless of who the customer is or what they have told them. So, the support person is nice and cordial and apologetic and all of those wonderful things that are part of the script, while the network manager gets more and more angry because he feels his time is being wasted (I have been that network manager, too).

This was how I was feeling when the nice scripting was getting in the way of actually listening to me, when each time they repeated back to me what they thought they heard they got it wrong. The script was both flawless and flawed. It was executed perfectly, but failed to get to the root of my problem – for 3 hours.

So how do we balance this? After all, companies need to be sure that those that serve their customers are doing so with the right information, the right attitude and the right “brand” of the company. Companies spend a great deal of money to retain customers and to analyze the transactions, to raise NPS and shore up any possible holes the competition can use. Ensuring that each person is giving the same information is one way, but I don’t think turning humans into automatons is the full solution.

Amazon released a product called the Echo. In the promo video above, one of the lines from one of the children grabbed my attention: “with everything Echo can do, it’s really become part of the family“. I think our scripting has tried to get us there – where the service person and the customer are tied together in a beneficial relationship. The customer leaves the transaction knowing that they have been taken care of, and that the experience was pleasant and uplifting. But the second part of this – the uplifting and pleasant experience – cannot happen without the first… the customer must be cared for. For this to happen, humans must be allowed to be human. True care cannot be what is listed on page one of the sheet. It has to be part of the business plan and goal of every person that serves, and they must feel that they have the autonomy to actually care for the customer.

My 3 hour ordeal was not all bad. Out of the 6 or 7 people I spoke to (yes, I was transferred at least 6 times for one issue), one person did step up to the plate. She was in the middle of the ordeal, heard the frustration in my voice, and took the time to listen to my issue, as well as to make sure she fully understood the situation. She didn’t go forward until we were both speaking the same language: We both knew we were speaking about an email transaction, about what was contained in the email, about the areas of my concern and about what my bottom line was. Only then did she begin to do her research, kept me informed, and used the script to her advantage – where there was a need for it she used it. Otherwise, she remained a caring human trying to solve a problem for another.

In the article mentioned above, Don Wardell says that “the people designing the services need to be careful about what kind of scripting they are going to use”. I wholeheartedly agree, and would add one more thing: we need to take the time to teach our service professionals how to use the script as a tool so that they can confidently care for the customer, and raise the quality of the interaction for the customer. It is in those instances that customers will gladly recommend the products or services of the company, because they feel valued and cared for… not just because the service person was nice, but because they exhibited true customer service.

Notable Notables

I wanted to find some examples of good and bad service (yes, I have my own, but seeing them in video is often better :-) ). This first one we have all probably experienced from time to time:

This is a great example of service done right. Kevin Eikenberry describes it as “we are going to solve this problem for you“. Taking the time to hear the problem and use the tools given to come to a resolution.

 

 

 

2016 – The Empty Canvas

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This morning I woke up to silence. The hoopla of the night was over. Revelry had given way to sleep. It was in some ways disconcerting… The excitement of the new year had turned into “ok, it’s here… now what?” I had been speaking with my best friend about seasons, and how it can seem like our New Year’s resolutions, and the new year itself can seem like just a rehashing of the same old stuff… The thought started to grip me like the 8 degree temperature on our latest adventure (for those of you that have never experienced that level of cold… it doesn’t go away that easily).

This morning’s silence was also comforting. I thought of the year to be, seeing it as a clean slate. The beginning of this year is like a fresh snowfall… no dirt or marks or footprints. It is a canvas waiting to be painted, a song ready to be penned, a door waiting to be opened. Who knows what is on the other side or what the finished product will be? I think this is more exciting a thought than just more of the same. I may end up looking back on the year, reflecting on a new job, or a trip to a new country, or on new friendships having formed. It’s all there for the taking.

I began to think of how I can challenge myself to orchestrate 2016. After all, Ben Franklin’s words are true: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I looked at the numbers of the year, and decided to do something like this:

  • 2 – gain 2 new real friends
  • 0 – days where I don’t express love or appreciation
  • 1 – accomplish 1 significant goal
  • 6 – read 6 books designed to improve me in some way

I also have a bonus 6: I want to seriously contribute to the lives of 6 people, to help them either accomplish their goals, or make their lives better. I have other things rolling around in my head and heart too, and they will reveal themselves in time.

Like every year before it, we may look back on 2016 and comment about how fast it went, and that’s ok, as long as when we look back we have some wonderful memories, things that made us better people, and that we enjoyed the journey along the way. Here’s to a wonderful year!

Notable Notables

I picked up a book that challenged me from day one: 412ie85wval-_sx405_bo1204203200_  Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You  – by Robie Rogge and Dian Smith. It is both wonderful and challenging because it gives you the freedom to take risks and see what happens when you do – to get out of your comfort zone for once and face your fears.

Gift Wrapping Takes Time..

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2015-12-25 20.35.56Christmas 2015 has come and gone. It seems like there is so much preparation and stuph that goes into the event, only to have it zip past us so fast, we don’t even realize that it is over. The other day I went into Starbucks, ordered my drink and got into the car feeling like something was different… it was: the cup holding my Chai latte was no longer red. Not more than a few weeks ago there was a national dilemma – outrage over what was not placed on Starbucks cups, and basically the day after Christmas, poof! Even the red is gone.

Nowhere is this seen more than in the painstaking process of gift wrapping. Some people are skilled at it, others dread it, and there are still others that avoid it altogether (bags serve the purpose quite well ;-) ). For those that attempt it, it requires planning, resources, and quite a bit of thought: do I use this paper or that? For whom am I wrapping? What is the “message” this wrapping job conveys? After all, you don’t want to be too “lovey-dovey” to a relative or a little kid, but you do want to display the appropriate amount of love to a spouse or significant other. So much to think about. Then there is the right kind of tape so it doesn’t show, but does hold the paper in place, and what about bows and ribbons and tags, and…

That’s a lot of stuph…

A lot of stuph that gets destroyed in a matter of seconds. Before you know it, the sound of ripping paper is replaced by the sight of crumpled remnants of once beautiful wrapping, now only destined for the trash heap or recycling bin. To be sure, there are a few that will take the time to appreciate the look of the wrapping job, admiring how beautiful the gift looks in its temporary housing, but in all honesty (as you will see later) the wrapping is nothing without the gift inside. No one looks at the wrapped present and decides to just keep the gift in its wrapping because it looks so nice.

So why do we do it? Why do we take the time to find just the right paper, and spend hours measuring, cutting, taping and decorating an item, knowing that those that will receive it are really only wanting to get to the gift inside? Why not just cut to the chase and hand them the unwrapped gift? I find it amazing that the gift wrap industry (even those words seem to be contradictory) rakes in over $9 billion annually…. that’s a ton of stuph that gets tossed aside in a matter of seconds.

I would venture to say that gift giving is much more than just spending money on something that the receiver might want. There is a value that goes into the giving of a gift that has, really, nothing to do with the tangible exchange of goods. Large or small, inexpensive or extravagant, the gift itself tends to lose its sparkle over time, especially since we have additional occasions to give – there are always more birthdays, more Christmases, more promotions, and the list goes on. At some point, the person to whom we are giving a gift just simply does not need another toy or tie or set of earrings… but we give them anyway.

Gift wrapping then becomes an extension of our heart. It is part of the gift – a way to show that the gift is more than just money spent. It is time and care and love taken to prepare the gift to be given. The hope is that the person receiving the gift will see all of that in the presentation of the gift. It doesn’t matter that it only lasts a little while, because the memory of the gift being given is what really lasts.

There is a scripture that Christians hold to, where Jesus said “I go to prepare a place for you”. Now, I have been taught, and have held to the belief that the reason that Jesus has not yet returned was because we weren’t ready… there were still people that needed to hear the gospel. As true as that might be, I don’t think it is the only reason. After all, I’m sure he could figure out how to wrap this up in an instant (no pun intended ;-) ). But there is something about that word, prepare. It’s kind of like wrapping a gift. Time has to be taken to prepare the gift properly, to show the love and care of the giver. So, while we sit and anxiously wait for the time when we can shed the paper and get to the “real stuff”, we miss the wrapping itself… life, love, relationship, development, challenge, joy… all of those things that make us have reason to want an eternal life. For this reason, I can see that He is not just sitting around until we “get it”, but rather He is actively folding each edge, carefully taping sections together, cutting out what is not needed, and placing bows and ribbons on my life in just the right places to make it beautiful.

Some of the memories of Christmas are captured in pictures. Rarely do we capture unwrapped presents under the tree, because once unwrapped they become tools of joy in the hands of the kids. But we do capture pictures of wrapped presents under the tree. These pictures give us memories of anticipation, of love, and of the beauty of the season. We think back to the joy we both hoped and expected for the receiver, and our joy when those hopes were realized. Wrapping the gifts was hard work, but it was well worth it.

As we leave the Christmas season, the new year marks another set of opportunities for us to give gifts to those we love and admire. We should remember that what we wrap is more than just a trinket… it is our very lives – we give ourselves in every gift. I pray this coming year will be filled with many memories being made for you in the wrapping of every gift.

Notable Notables

As I told you before, wrapping is nothing without the gift inside, and Jimmy Kimmel proves it in this hilarious and heartbreaking video of children getting some unexpected gifts for Christmas… have fun with this one :)

And to balance out the gift giving, here are some kids who may forget the actual gifts, but the “wrapping” will be imprinted on them for the rest of their lives :-)

Depth of Heart – The Artistry of Alana Devine..

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This past Friday, I was presented with a couple of things that stilled me. First was a video of the celebration of life for a renowned rugby player, Jonah Lomu. In this celebration, players from the organization… dozens, if not hundreds, performed a traditional and ceremonial Haka.

It’s hard to say what stilled me, because it wasn’t only one thing. It was each part, and the sum of the parts, and even more than that. The cultural significance, the attention to detail, the passion with which each person participated… the diversity of players who gave themselves to this traditional Maori war cry… and then there were the unspoken things… what they did, while maybe not intended, brought me into the center of who they were, of who this man was. It reached to the depth of my heart and spoke to me, even about myself. While I have more to say on this, I struggle with putting words to the emotion, because it seems that words would be inadequate to express the intensity that, even now, I still feel…

If that weren’t enough, I had the privilege of going to an art opening for my friend, Alana Devine.  For as long as I have known her, Alana has been an amazing artist, one that takes everything she has and believes in and weaves it all into each piece that she creates. I first saw Alana painting in church, moving in time and rhythm to the worship and flow of Spirit that was happening. Tapping into the depth of her own heart and soul, Alana would burst forth with color and stroke, creating what could only be described as a song on canvas. When I heard that she was going to have a showing in an art gallery, I had to go. One, because she is my friend, and I wanted to support her, but even more because I wanted to see what had come forth from the eternity of passion, love and life that churns within her.

The Sanchez Art Center was the chosen location for her opening, and it had many pieces on display from a number of artists. The creativity of each artist was amazing, but I was on a mission… I was looking for just one artist. I passed through various sections of the gallery, admiring the artwork, running into a few friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and anticipating a display that would be both pleasing and amazing, and Alana did not disappoint. Prominently displayed in a chief section of the Main Gallery were the works that would capture my attention, as well as my heart. I greeted Alana’s husband, Mike, in our traditional manner (men stuff… it’s all good :-) ), and gave Alana a great big bear hug before I started to take in her artwork. It took me a few minutes before I realized I was caught up in each piece, speechless and motionless… I had seen wonderful artwork before, but this was different… In the same way as I was mesmerized by the Haka, I was taken up by what I was seeing.

What I can explain… Alana has such an eye for detail, for texture and for mood. While some people will focus on a single aspect in their artwork, Alana has the uncanny ability to blend them all into her work. So, when you are examining one of her pieces, you may start with the recognition of the depth of field, and before you know it you are being affected by the warm tones of the European style buildings, or the cool ocean water kissed by the heat of the springtime sun. Some artwork you are able to appreciate from a distance, but Alana’s pulls you into the scene, the timing, the experience. You are with her, on the boat or the hillside… you feel the grasses and flowers brushing against your legs and the mist of the ocean drifting across your face. You experience life, in ways that maybe you have experienced it before, or possibly in a way that you have been longing for.
People were congratulating Alana on her showing and her expertise, but when I spoke to her, I told her I had no words… I was full, but my mind could not put together any explanation of what I was feeling. All I could do is keep turning back to the same paintings, letting them pour into me even more.

While writing this entry, I went back to see the video of the Haka again. I wasn’t there, have never played rugby, and knew nothing of this man until I had seen this video, yet as I watched it, all I could do was cry, and I cannot explain why. Something in the display, or rather everything in the display touched something in my heart. I was not just watching it – I was pulled into not only the specific time and experience, but into the fullness of his life, of the life of the players, of the culture that has become an earmark of rugby lifestyle. Similarly, the art of Alana Devine has touched something deep in my heart. Something that is hard to explain, something that you just have to experience. Each piece has more than just a story or an inspiration. Her work has the whole of life, of love, of connection with the Holy One, and an invitation for you to partake in the same.
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I can congratulate Alana on her first art opening, but I feel that I need to thank her as well, for I received much more than just the ability to see expertly crafted artwork. I saw her heart, and my heart, a little deeper that day.

Notable Notables:
You still have time to see Alana’s work. She will be on display December 12th and 13th at the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica. For more information you can see her website.

Water Drops

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Water drops
Falling
From the skies
My eyes
Unable to see
The horizon
Eyes on
The heart
Wet from drops
That fall
While it falls
Waiting to be filled
Receiving
Life giving
Drops flow
Over parched areas
Of land and sand
Rivers, please flow
In deserts of my soul
Pour into emptiness
Drop upon drop
To make it a pool,
Then a lake
To take the lack
Away as I sit
In the stillness
Where I am called
And balling gives way
To silence
And hearing
Peering
Toward the horizon
To see and know
You would never go
Without me
But with me
You sit
In stillness
To be
And catch
Every drop that falls
From the skies…
From my eyes…

A Six Year Old Kid…

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I decided to check out my blog today, just to see what was up. In the corner was an icon I hadn’t seen before (or it was so long ago, I didn’t recognize it). It was a trophy… weird. I clicked on it, and was surprised with a “Happy Anniversary” message from WordPress… Kidstuph was born (registered) 6 years ago.

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This has me thinking… 6 years… over 125 posts, visitors from 70 countries, hundreds of comments, over 10000 pageviews, subjects from lemons to sermons to Calvin & Hobbes. Most of what happens from Kidstuph, at least as far as who is reading and how it is touching people is hidden from me. Every now and then I get a comment, or someone telling me how important Kidstuph is to them (thank you Mom and Lorraine :-) ), but I don’t write for accolades… I write because I love sharing my heart, I love writing, and I love connecting with people through my writing. People like Estrella, Gina, and of course my friend and writing mentor, J Clement Wall :-).

As I think back over the years, I am pretty confident that I have grown in my writing, expanded my concepts that I was willing to tackle, and at the same time, I have so much to learn. I have always stuck to personal and/or spiritual things, but have never attempted to lend my writing abilities to my work… maybe because… well, maybe because of every reason and fear in the world – who knows… maybe I just never did it. I have focused on what I was comfortable and confident in – what I knew I could easily write about, even if the process of constructing each entry was tough. Subjects like wisdom, love, hope – those come relatively easy for me to write about, even if I am struggling to experience them at the moment. I think it is because I believe in them, and as such they become beacons and benchmarks for me… lighthouses if you will, to help guide me back to a balanced center in this crazy roller coaster journey we call life.

A couple months ago, I was sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, and I was joined at the counter by a 6 year old. We were both regulars there, so he was pretty comfortable with me. As we sat there eating fries and drinking tea, he asked me, “why is your skin that color?” Ah, the mind, innocence and boldness of a 6 year old :-). I was only taken aback because I wasn’t expecting the question. Personally I thought it was cute, and reminded me of a situation with my daughter when she was about that age. Right now, he sees the world in a certain way, but as he grows up, his world view will change, and so will his questions. The color of my skin won’t matter too much to him – at least I hope it won’t. He will be more interested in developing relationships, understanding business, caring for his family, seeking out his destiny… as I think about him now, I wonder what I can do to help influence his worldview and passion so he can become a force for positive change and life, but that is the subject of a future blog post…

6 year olds are great because they have a grasp of complex thoughts, are willing to engage older people in conversation, and have the energy to light a small city :-). They are also great because they are growing… they won’t stay 6 forever, and for them, they don’t want to stay 6 one more second… they want to grow up, do more stuff, take on more, be more…

DSCF4961So Kidstuph is 6…

And it doesn’t want to stay 6 any longer than it has to. There are more challenges to overcome, more life to see and experience, more people to meet… There is a great big world out there that is calling to be visited, to be touched, to have relationship with, to share love with. According to Infoplease, there are 196 official countries out there, so Kidstuph still has work to do. The world is seeing what the news and politicians are portraying, and according to them, the state of our fair planet looks pretty grim… what can this 6 year old do, when it matures to tackle the state of the Big Blue Ball? Who knows, but that’s the great thing about a 6 year old… 6 year olds are still innocent enough that they can dream big, and not be jaded by what they see on TV… They are not only willing to believe that superheroes live among them… they believe that they can be that superhero. DSCF4978

I can’t tell you what this means yet for Kidstuph. I can say that the progress of Kidstuph will continue. We will sit together at the table, and ask the questions that are important… we will share our fries together, and we will get to know this world we live in… together.

Thank you for walking with me for the past 6 years, and for the years to come.

Notable Notables

6 years ago, not only did Kidstuph start, but this video showed up on Youtube. Talk about a positive kid… she can make you want to take on the day (the second one is the deleted scene… priceless :-) ):

 

Droughts, Drops and “Dearness”..

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This has been an interesting week, mentally. A few days ago I was looking back in pictures I took a year ago, showing the effects of the drought on one of my childhood hangouts…

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My friend and I had gone on a hike, and ended up staring at what at one time was a popular fishing place. What had been a lake completely dried up… the drought had taken everything that the lake was… water, fish, you name it – it was gone. Now I knew we were in a drought… I saw the media coverage, the lack of a snowpack and all, but it really didn’t hit home until I was standing in the middle of the lake bed, my shoes covered with dust.

We were really in a drought…

It’s been about 6 weeks since I transitioned out of my job. It is an interesting process going from being gainfully employed to seeking employment. By interesting, I definitely don’t mean enjoyable. It is interesting in how it affects a person. Initially, it is like hearing the news of the snowpack on TV. You acknowledge it, comment about how horrible it is, but then change the channel or wait for the next news story. It’s like “that’s ok, cuz at some point, the rain will come… we’ll bounce back… we always have”. Then you hit that emotional valley. The place where, over time, the rain has not touched for a long time. Companies don’t get back to you… recruiters are not calling as much, if at all… you find yourself 4th out of 3 candidates…

You are standing in an empty lake bed…

You are in your own drought…

Droughts do some weird things to us. When the drought was in full swing over the past year, you started seeing signs saying, “Brown is the new green”. Almost like people were proud that their lawn had died. There was also some jealousy or judgment  of those whose lawn was still green… “how dare they? I’m doing my part… my lawn is dead”. When we realize we are in drought, we try to adjust to it. We cannot control it, so we might as well play along. As much as we play along though, inside we still feel it… we look at the deadness of the hills, and it hurts us. We long for days gone by when we weren’t suffering so.

I have done similar things as I prepare for the job that at some point will come. I have accepted my new current normal (kinda), been jealous of those who are still in “green pastures”, and as the days go by, have felt the sting of being in a place where the dust gathers around my feet.

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Droughts do something else though… In recent days we have started to see rain. Rain is fun cuz it messes up our commutes, causes us to track water and mud into the house, and does a number on many a hairdo. Yet, because of the drought, rain caused something else: appreciation. It is awesome to see so many people happy to recognize the drops of life coming from the sky. People even forgive the commute conditions because they are just thankful that the rain has come.

While these little drops of goodness haven’t put a dent in the drought conditions, they offer promise – rain will still come. No matter how bad the drought gets, it doesn’t stop the rain, so there is reason to hope. Looking back on my day in the lake bed, there was one other thing that I didn’t focus on, but was actually there… trees. While the bed was dry, around the bed there were still trees growing. Their roots had gone deep enough to find water to sustain them. So  the drought is in our face… at our level, but refreshing drops of water exist if we are willing and able to go deep enough for it. So, there is not only promise, but there is evidence… evidence of life that I can focus on, and if I am observant, I can see it all around me. I can choose to focus on the dust, or I can lift my eyes to see that there is beauty and encouragement surrounding me.

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This morning my soul was in knots. The “Type A” in me was struggling with the struggle… trying to force the drought to end, realizing that I don’t have the strength in myself to make water fall from the sky. The quote that entered my mind was “these are the times that try men’s souls”. I wanted to use it to update my status, yet had no idea where it came from, so I figured I would look it up beforehand to ensure I was using it in the correct context. To confess, I thought it was from one of Shakespeare’s plays or something like that, just because it flows so poetically. Actually, it was from a very different source. It is from Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis,  describing the beginning of the American Revolution. I read more and understood the quote, and my drought, and my appreciation for the drops, a little more:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

This winter, we are expecting El Nino to hit harder than ever before, and those of us in drought stricken areas are saying, “bring it on!” As much as we know it won’t be easy, we do know it will provide what we so desperately need. I have spoken to other friends who have moved into new roles and companies, who feel the relief that refreshing drops bring. They feel it because they have identified the “dearness” in their lives. Whether the dearness is work/life balance, or teamwork, or vision, the thing that they needed they were able to find, and indeed they fought hard to get that thing.

So, I fight on… while my soul may be tried, I will not be the summer soldier or the sunshine patriot of my own soul (or my career), but will work to, not just find a job to get a paycheck, but to identify what is really needed for my soul… and to appreciate those times when drops of life enter my dry lake bed, knowing that it won’t always be this way… soon enough it will be full of life again, and in a place to give life to others.

Notable Notables

I love hearing about companies who exist for higher purposes. Tom’s Shoes was one of the first I recall that would give a pair of shoes away to someone in need for every pair that is purchased. While this messes with our mindset of profit at all cost, it is a much more noble way to live. Other companies have started to follow suit, and is a commendable way for businesses to be responsible. Kudos, Tom!

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