May, 2011


31
May 11

UK or UK? Huh?

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Howdy!

Yes… you are correct.  It is Tuesday, not Monday.

Just so you know, Memorial Day is not the reason for my not posting on Monday as per my usual.  I was not being a slug as some may think.  Frankly, I was not in the head space to do any writing and the nice thing about it is that I don’t feel bad.

Memorial Day was especially interesting this year.

This year Memorial Day was different for my wife and me because we had some guests in our home from Austria and the UK.

Side Note:  For my friends from the Bluegrass State, the UK which I was referring to is not the University of Kentucky.

Yes… there is a region of the world known as the UK, and no… you can’t sue them for copyright infringement on your beloved Wildcats.

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Our guests from the UK were a family of four and it was their first time to the US.  It was perfect timing for them to get a taste of true Americana.

It was a good day, and a day that made me proud to be an American.

Side Note: Forgive me but I will go into quite a bit of detail.  It may even take a couple of blogs.  But I want to give you an accurate sense of our Memorial Day tradition and how it was perceived by our visitors from abroad.

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Memorial Day 2011

In our little (I mean little) community we have the usual small town traditions surrounding Memorial Day.

First there is the parade – small,cute and American to the core.

My wife and I with our visitors walked a couple of blocks from our home to the parade route and arrived 5 minutes before it started.  We were much too early.

At first I was somewhat concerned because we were by ourselves and I began to question the parade route and schedule.  But all of a sudden there were families (with their dogs) emerging from the homes and side streets… like ants showing up out of nowhere, they were on a slow and methodical mission.

Quickly there were people lining the streets talking, laughing and greeting neighbors.

Then it happens.  The village police car heads the procession with lights flashing and the occasional blast of siren to announce the approach.  For what ever reason, this siren blast is different.  The siren blast sounds friendly, inviting and happy.

At the first sight and sound of the police car the small children get their first shot of adrenalin.  What was a casual air of friendly laidback chit chat with neighbors now is magically transformed.

A sweet intensity sweeps the streets.  The kids begin to move and bounce with excitement.

The children and adults in mass begin inching to the edge of the street and leaning over.  Like bobbing for apples the bodies from the waist up, rise and lower with heads turned toward the sound to get a glimpse of the police car leading the procession.

This is the beginning of the ten minute parade.  The police car slowly passes and the officers throw candy to the kids.

The lead car is immediately followed by a sundry of parade participants.  Anyone can be in the parade if they wish.  But then you have the usual marchers such as the Boy and Girl Scout troops walking with their troop, pack, tribe or cluster, all waving and throwing candy.

There are usually a few old cars with grandparents who want their grandchildren in the parade.  But one convertible is always reserved to carry the Memorial Day essay winner from the middle school.

Of course the parade would not be complete without our wonderful small marching band made up of people of all ages from the community.  They pass by (somewhat in step) playing the anthem of one of the branches of the military.  This year it happened to be the Navy anthem, Anchors Away.

The parade concludes with a couple of fire trucks and more candy tossed helter skelter to the kids both young and old.

As the small parade winds through the streets on its appointed route, it collects people as it goes like a Pied Piper.

As the parade passes, the spectators naturally fold in behind the entourage for a casual procession for a couple of blocks before we are spilled out on the village green for a short memorial ceremony.

During the parade our guests from the UK and Austria are all eyes and ears.  They are taking pictures like tourists… oh… they are tourists.  They were snapping pictures of everything that we take for granted.

But now that we are on the green, how would they respond to a memorial ceremony honoring those in the US military who lost their lives?

See you Thursday… seriously… Thursday.


26
May 11

Bent Waist or Flat on Your Face

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Hello, good to see you again.

On Monday I talked about an amazing scene I saw at the bottom of an escalator in baggage claim at an airport in Los Angeles.

Excerpt from Monday’s blog.

The woman was on her knees and she was bowed completely over from the waist with her face on the floor and her arms extended out on the carpet with her hands flat.

It was an amazing sight.  Here you had the hustle and bustle of baggage claim with all the families, travelers and limo drivers and there was a person bowing as low as one could get on carpet that collects millions of foot steps each year.”

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I ended the blog by asking this question of myself and the readers…

“What do I love and care enough about where my surroundings do not restrict my actions?

In hind sight I wish I had asked the question a bit differently.  The wording of the question doesn’t capture the essence of the event.

If we look at my question in its purest form, I am sure that we all can say that we’ve done things not caring about our surroundings or what people thought.

My, my, haven’t we all done some pretty stupid stuff in the name of love.  I am sure we could all share some interesting stories about things we have done when there was no regard our surroundings.

Yes, my question misses the mark.  The essence of the event was not the fact that the lady with the jet black hair dressed completely in white did something despite the surroundings; but it was the act of raw servitude and surrender of self that screamed the loudest.

Relinquishing self is so counter cultural.  Our society demands we take care of “number one” first.  Anything less is seen as weak and ignorant.

** God Alert ** – Head’s up.  I will talk about my faith for a bit.  Once again I am not trying to make you believe as I do.

I have said it many times, if a person is a genuine seeker of Truth (including myself) then we will be led to what is good and right.

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As a Christian I am quite comfortable with my faith.  I am not in any way ashamed of my faith in Christ.  But saying that, I am very ashamed of how some people behave in the name of Christ.  That is a whole different topic worth diving into some day… but not today.

Frankly, there are not that many defined public displays of my faith except for possibly praying before a meal.  I always pray before a meal except on occasion when I am with someone where I think that it would be inappropriate.

Side Note: My last statement got some of my Christian friends all in a tizzy.  I am sure I am immediately going on their prayer list because they think I am drifting from “the Faith”.

No, I personally don’t believe I have to pray every time I eat.  I do because I want to.  When I am with another person my responsibility is to be what Christ wants me to be for them, and frankly, that may mean not praying.  Because my ritual is less important than making sure they are open and receptive to who and what I am.

How in the world did I get down this path?  My A.D.D. must have kicked in.

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OK, back to open servitude and surrender to self.

Now honestly, there is not a preacher or religious leader I would bow to as did the lady.  Please know that I am not judging her.  I am talking about me… and of course we all know its about me (that was a joke).

But seriously, bowing in complete selflessness is rare in our world.  In the UK people bow (slightly bent waist) or curtsy out of proper respect.  But a selfless face down bow is not seen.

So with all that said, the question for me is this.

What do I bow to in complete servitude and selfless surrender?

If your answer is nothing, you’re wrong.  We all surrender to something.

If your response was nothing, the real answer is yourself!

I like self as much as the next person.  I like things my way.  But I easily and regularly bow, face to floor, to my Lord.

Hopefully I didn’t scare some of you off who don’t believe as I do.  Don’t worry, I won’t get all preachy.

Thanks for hanging out with me… see you Monday.

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23
May 11

The Monk with the Tiffany Blue Box

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Hi there.

On Thursday I started a story about the Buddhist Monk that I encountered at the Phoenix airport on a flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles last Wednesday.

If you didn’t read the last blog it would probably be a good idea to take a look at it so you can get the total picture of this striking experience.

Before we dive into what happened at the airport in Los Angeles I have to let you know that the Tiffany blue box the Monk was holding on the plane has no bearing on the story.  Though it peaked my curiosity, he just held it during the flight and then tucked it away upon landing.

I put it in the title because it had a nice ring (no pun intended) to it.

OK, back to the monk and the Los Angeles airport.

Upon landing I quickly became consumed with the usual business traveler ritual.  While the plane approaches the gate we quickly prepare our plan for rapid exit from the plane.  As soon as the plane stops and the bell dings you unclick your seatbelt and stand to the aisle in one fluid motion.

You stand your ground, grab your items, and when the line gives way you waddle down the narrow aisle with the rest of the herd.

Once I got out of my seat and in the aisle I didn’t even think about the monk.  I was a man on a mission.

I thought I was making pretty good time through the concourse to baggage claim.  I was running the gauntlet of travelers in an especially skilled and stealth manner if I say so myself.

I got to the escalator to go down the baggage claim.  It was a long escalator that carried it’s human cargo smoothly down into the depths.

About two thirds down I noticed the usual line of limo drivers with their signs scribbled with the names of their ride to be.

But in the middle of the drivers I noticed a person that didn’t fit the surroundings.

There was a somewhat attractive, slightly plump middle aged woman.  She was a striking contrast to the black suited limo drivers.  She had an olive complexion, jet black hair and dressed completely in white.

Her wide grin and the expression on her face was joyous.  She stared straight up the escalator looking directly past me.  I turned to see who she was peering at… you guessed it… the monk.

First of all, I was kind of spooked because it was like he just appeared behind me.  There was no way any ordinary person could have kept up with my skilled maneuvering through the airport.  He must have been ninja monk.   But I digress.

She maintained eye contact with the monk behind me the entire journey down the escalator.

At the bottom of the escalator I quickly took a few steps and turned around to look.

When I turned to see what was going to happen I was taken back.  The scene was so foreign to the setting or our societal norms.

The woman was on her knees and she was bowed completely over from the waist with her face on the floor and her arms extended out on the carpet with her hands flat.

It was an amazing sight.  Here you had the hustle and bustle of baggage claim with all the families, travelers and limo drivers and there was a person bowing as low as one could get on carpet that collects millions of foot steps each year.

I don’t know who the monk was or the story of the woman.  I will never know.

But this is what struck me… this nicely dressed woman without the slightest hesitation, or with any qualms about her surroundings, took a position of complete servitude.

This screams the question, what do I love and care enough about where my surroundings do not restrict my actions?

How about you?

I think I will unpack this more on Thursday.


19
May 11

A Scene of Contrast

Hi, welcome back.

Writing a blog has its challenges.  The two challenges that seem to dog me the most are the two “T’s”… Time and Topic.

As you can tell from my last blog I have been doing some traveling and when I’m on the road my routine is totally out the window.  So the terrible “T’s” are more pronounced.

Because I continue to believe I am to write this blog the time issue is something I just address… I make the time.  We make time for what’s important.  This will be a blog topic some day.

The “Topic” challenge is ongoing.  I was uncomfortable starting the blog because I wondered if I had anything to write worth reading.  So I struggle with topics.

Most of the time I have to intently keep attuned to the world around me to come up with something worthwhile.  Then there are those times when a blog topic slaps you right in the face.  Today is one of those days.

A remarkable thing happened.

Yesterday I continued my travels for the week by taking a flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles.  While waiting at the gate to board it was the usual scene.  People were non-chalantly hovering close to the gate casually jockeying for position so when their seating zone was called they could jump.  It is sort of like runners crouched and set in position waiting for the gun to fire.

But then something caught my eye.  It was as if two foreign worlds were colliding.  Standing next to a pillar was a monk.  Not a Catholic monk but what I am not sure… Buddhist, Hindu, who knows?

It was like a movie when suddenly there is silence and everything gets fuzzy except the focal point at the center of the picture.

The monk was a thin dark skinned young man (late 20’s would be my guess).  He was slight of build and had a shaven head.   He was wearing a muted purple robe that although seemed to drape casually, one could tell it was wrapped with deliberation and purpose.  It was obvious that he was seasoned in his attire.   Sandals were on his feet and a brown canvas bag on a long strap hung from his shoulder completing the picture

He had a pleasant look to his face but avoided eye contact.  This will sound odd, but although he was there… he was not there.  It was like he was in a bubble that was suddenly removed from its place of origin and appeared in a foreign environment.

This scene of striking contrast was facinating to observe.  When his seating zone was called he slowly and calmly walked toward the ticket agent.  This alone was an obvious sharp contrast to the herd of cattle that stampeded as if popped with a cattle prod when the announcement sounded.

To my chagrin he boarded in zone three while I was relegated to the herd in zone four.  To my surprize and delight the monk was seated on the same row across the aisle at the window seat.  The striking contrast remained.

As the flight progressed I would try to discretely look over to see what he was doing.  He sat upright in a proper sort of way with his hands folded on his lap and looked forward.  I noticed that he held a small blue box in his hands.  It was a Tiffany blue color.

Up to now it was just an interesting story about a scene of striking contrast.  But it was at the airport in Los Angeles that the amazing incident occurred.

I will try to capture the scene and make sense of the significance of it on Monday.

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16
May 11

Polka and a Pinky Ring

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Howdy, I hope your day is going well.

My day started early…  3:10 a.m. early.  I tend to be an early riser but this was a bit much.

To add to my odd morning I am currently scrunched up in a small airplane seat (19 F) on my way to Phoenix.  To make matters worse the person in front of me has her seat reclined back in my lap.  Any closer I could kiss her forehead.

So here I am trying to write my blog entry and I have to stand the computer on its edge and half folded to be able to type.

I am sure that I look weird to the people around me.  I am sitting straight up, peeking over the edge of the computer with my elbows invading the air space of my fellow passengers and fingers dancing along the keyboard.

I have this uncomfortable feeling that the combination of my posture and the contraption in my lap makes me look like I am playing the accordion.  All I need is a pinky ring to make the scene complete… polka anyone?

There are people coughing, babies crying and only three hours and 25 minutes to touch down… but who’s counting… ahhh the glamour of travel.

But strangely, I feel pretty cheerful.  I haven’t let the surroundings capture my attitude.  Just so you know, I tend to be pretty pleasant most of the time (except when I get hungry, then I can get a bit cranky).

I am having a good day because I am choosing not to let things get to me.

This morning I had extra help with my attitude, but not in the way that you might think.  What helped me decide to have a good attitude was watching a person with a bad attitude.

Before the flight I heard a person really complaining.  First let me say in all fairness, there were things going on that were frustrating.  So the basis of the frustration was legitimate.

But like most things in life, it is not the “what” in life that defeats us but the “how” we deal with it.  Everyone faces things that are annoying, unfair or frustrating.

I am sure you too have experienced similar scenes.  Someone gets frustrated because something isn’t going right.

It starts off as some low level grumbling and then the voice gets louder as a means to let everyone and especially the source of the frustration know they are unhappy.

As the problem lingers the voice gets louder, more intense and caustic.  The voice is no longer just a means of announcing unhappiness but becomes a spew.

Initially I believe most of the people standing just ignored the person.  But as the vocal siren of whine and frustration wailed  on we all wanted to escape… or take her out.  It was tempting because we all wanted to take ourselves out of her misery.

Now in all fairness, I too have had my times.  But the light finally came on when I realized that getting upset doesn’t change a thing.  It just makes the situation worse and sucks everything and everyone around that’s not secured into a black hole of negativity.

I guess if I step back and look at the situation in total I have to come to the conclusion that all was not bad.  If God can use a talking donkey, He can use a spinning headed woman to touch my life.

It gave me something to write about and I ended up having a good day.

See you Thursday.


12
May 11

Men at Work

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Hello, good to see you again.

As most of you know I frequently press in on the amazing reality that our life is a journey.  I even kicked the tires on the topic again in the last blog entry and said I would poke at it some more.

As soon as I start talking about this life journey thing I know that some of you are immediately turned off.  You probably think this kind of premise is a fluffy, feel good, inspirational pep talk about life and tapping into some personal inner power to reach your full potential.

Nope, not at all.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  I am definitely not a hold hands, get in touch with the inner you, pink wearing, kumbaya kind of guy.

Well, on second thought I do like a tasteful shade of pink… the manly shade of course.

In reality this premise is about as raw and rugged as it gets.  Nothing takes more courage than to look life square on and face reality.  This is the “Men at Work” zone.

Side Note: Ok ladies, don’t get your panties in a wad.  I am using this phrasing in a purely gender neutral metaphorical sort of way.

I am fully aware that you are fully capable (probably more so) of facing life square on.

Anyway, I kind of like messin with people at times… and those who tend to lean a bit too heavily on the feminist issue are particularly fun to tweak.

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I admire people who are willing to address the hard issues, look for ways to better themselves and the world around them, enjoy the amazing blessings available and be willing to search for the hidden treasures that are sprinkled along the way.

Making the most of this journey of life requires work… hard work.

The work is not so much in charting the course and making things happen the way you want them to in life, but the work is on yourself.  It is the hard work of unlocking the invisible shackles that keeps us from where we can be.

I tend to see people gravitate to the two ends of the continuum of life.

There are some people who seem to just let life happen and then all of a sudden one day they wake up and wonder how they got where they are.

Side Note: In the spirit of full disclosure I leaned toward this end of the continuum when I was younger.  I don’t know if it was youth or the fact I didn’t know any better.

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Then there are those at the other end of the continuum that are so buttoned down they try to force life through the narrow hole of their plans and timetable.  The very life of life is sucked dry.

I don’t know all the reasons we approach life the way we do.  But I do know that life, like most things, is a combination of art and science.

We must be intentional and plan.  Yet, we must fully grasp that life has the mysterious beauty of unpredictability and serendipity.

Although we may lean toward one end of the continuum or the other, I believe the people who have learned to float effectively on the currents between the two seem to enjoy life the most and be the most fulfilled.

I do know with certainty… I do not want to wake up five years from now and be where I am.  Here’s the interesting thing, where I am now is terrific, really terrific.

But I also know in the core of my being that there is a whole lot of life beyond my sight and knowledge for me to grow and experience.

“I will go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

-          David Livingstone

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So I move forward with a sense of excited expectation.

You just never know what is around that next bend… how exciting is that?

See you Monday.


9
May 11

Where were you when the lights went out?

Hi there.

In case you were wondering, my blog was late today.  I have a great excuse… the lights went out.

Yep, right at the point where my blog was about to hit the literary crescendo… darkness, silence, confusion… the power was out and my document gone.

No finer words have ever been penned, but now, lost to the ages.

Well, it might be bit of an exaggeration but the power actually did go out, thus the blog is launched late today.

Isn’t that the way life is?  You can have the best plans and then something bigger than the moment takes over and the plans are out the window.  Or in this case Windows (sorry, just a little computer humor).

The reality is, we are never in complete control.  We can control our little world to some degree but ultimately, we are at the whims of life.

Control is a mysterious slippery devil.  We all want it, some will stop at nothing (literally nothing) to have it, yet none possess it.

Some people grab hold of life tightly and try to force and bend it to their will.  They may make a dent in this thing called life but they never control it.

The odd paradox is that life is to be held to loosely.  Knowing that, the ebbs and flows are navigated more easily and the currents seem to channel more naturally in directions that better suit our needs and wants.

But rest assured… we never control life.

Things get a bit dicey when people feel that life is theirs for the taking and it centers on them.

I think there is something wise about the belief that we should have a healthy respect for things that are beyond us.

When we realize that we are a small piece of something larger it makes life look totally different.

Some people may take what I just said as a reason not to engage life head on.  No, on the contrary.  Knowing that you are a piece of something larger is exciting, powerful and meaningful.

This knowledge and understanding gives purpose versus the hollow vanity that life revolves around you and everything is here for your pleasure.

The media is full of stories of people lost to themselves and floundering for some sense of stability.

What’s sad is that people are entertained by the Charlie Sheen’s of the world.  What they cannot do on their own they seem to vicariously live out their self-centeredness through the chaotic lives of others.

Stability does not come in the isolation of one’s own importance but the realization that I am a part of something amazingly wonderful and magnificent.

I think I will poke more on this “life” thing on Thursday.

See you then… unless the power goes out.  If it does, we’ll flow with life.


5
May 11

The Sky is Falling

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Howdy.  I hope you’re having a great day.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that I have a crappy day every now and then.  Don’t worry, I feel pretty good today.

When I do have a bad day it is not because I am worrying about something.  I don’t tend to be a person that worries that much.

Fair warning, since I am not a worrier I will most likely offend you worriers out there today.

I barely finish the last sentence and my insensitivity is already kicking in.  Here goes… frankly I don’t understand why people worry about something that hasn’t even happened yet and, chances are, will never happen.  This baffles me.

We all know people who seem to focus on the “what ifs”.  Now like most things there is a continuum of worriers.  From the worrier that expends extra energy to the person consumed and fearful about the “what may be.”

“I have had a lot of troubles in life.  Fortunately most of them never came true.”

-       Mark Twain

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Believe me when I say that I am not making fun or light of worriers.  I just don’t understand them.

Now there is a difference between worry and appropriate concern about a current reality.

For example, there are things that concern me such as the economy or family issues.  It is on my radar screen and I take appropriate action but I don’t worry about the “what if’s” of life.

Worry can be a slippery slope into a whirl of negative emotion.  It’s odd to me how something that will most likely never happen, dominates and clouds the moment.

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”

-       Charles Spurgeon

This is the sad thing.  Worry about the future corrupts the present.

I probably don’t worry because I love myself too much.  In the past when I have spent time worrying I found that it took a lot of energy.

Being a person given to laziness it felt like an unnecessary expenditure of energy… and depressing.

Saving Face: Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t blow off responsibility.  I just don’t worry.

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The gap in logic for me is that worrying does not alter one single aspect of the issue being worried about.  It doesn’t change a thing.

I am sure the person worrying is wondering why someone like myself doesn’t worry.  They probably think that if I understood the magnitude of the issue I would be worried too.  They feel I just don’t grasp the situation.

Or worse, they think I am a calloused insensitive slug that doesn’t care about global warming, the end of the world coming in December of 2011, radiation from the damaged nuclear power plants, burning incandescent bulbs, water from the tap and eating meat.

Humm…on second thought, they may be right.  Maybe I am a calloused insensitive slug.

Anyway, for your worriers out there let me just say… forget it… I have no idea what to suggest.

Signing off.

The calloused, insensitive slug.

See you Monday.


2
May 11

Are You Trying to Get My Attention?

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Hello again.

Do you ever get the sense that someone or something is trying to get your attention or send you a message?

If not, it’s probably because you’re not listening.  Sorry to be so blunt but it’s true.

First, I believe that in the area of growing as a person, we never arrive.  There is always more for us to enjoy, experience and to accomplish.

That’s the beauty and miracle of life.

God Alert: Yep, this is one of those times when I will talk about my faith.  And once again, I don’t expect you to believe as I do.

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I tend to believe that God, because he loves his creation, continually offers us more.  We can never reach the end of what He has for us.

We can settle for somewhere along the journey… but be assured… there’s more.

Because there is more He is continually stirring us to step out and pulling us forward.  Occasionally God may even kick us in the butt to get our attention.

Side Note: Yes, I actually used the word butt and God in the same sentence.

No, I don’t think He is upset.

Some of you may be wondering why I made this a “Side Note”.  Believe me, there are some people I know who would be pretty disturbed that I said what I said.  But, I digress.

I believe that at key points in our journey there is a special attempt to get our attention.  God speaks to us by coincidence, friends and family, situations, and prayer.

So, the question is, are we listening?

I personally have been sensing and hearing a lot lately about making decisions.  I don’t sense  there is anything currently that I need to make a decision about.  But it could be that I may be faced with a growth opportunity soon that requires a decision.

I ran across a couple of quotes that I thought were pretty good and I want to share them with you.

“The highways are full of flat squirrels who couldn’t make up their mind.”

- Unknown

“When you cannot make up your mind between two evenly balanced courses of action, choose the bolder.”

- W.J. Slim

I particularly like the second quote.  It challenges me.

I don’t know what you are faced with.  But I do know that there is more to enjoy and experience.

Take the bold course… enjoy the thrill.

See you Thursday.