The Catcher and The Catch

He carries a basket of fishing goodies and a small net as he treks to his favorite spot, the one about a mile in and just over where the trail jumps left and the pool gathers deep. I think they call this place Sam’s Creek but a true fisherman will never disclose his exact whereabouts. I ask myself if they do this out of fear of their competition or their desire to protect the serenity and the existence of their spot. Whatever their reason, I like the mystery.

The water thrashes about as it runs down the way. The crashing of the rapids gives no wake to silence while the sun occasionally peaks through the canopy of hemlocks above. He stands there in the middle of the swift moving stream. He is like the moon hanging in the sky; still and quiet as he sends his gaze down into the water. He causes me pause while I draw a parallel of how God keeps watch over His creation below. He is steady, still and aware.

If I didn’t guess his trade by the obvious fishing poles, I’d think him a bit silly sight in his over-sized getup. His pants and his boots held onto him by two large suspenders and he proudly wears a floppy cap, all the rage with the other trout fishermen his species. He looks like he might play the part of a clean cut desk man and I suspect he has traded his corporate crown for the floppy cap if only for this one quiet day of reprieve.

In one fluid and smooth motion, he raises his rod in one hand and holds his line in the other while he flings the rod back and then forward, back and then forward, back and then forward, back and then forward. With each back and forward move, I hear the line whip and run, whip and run, whip and run, whip and run. I watch the misty spray spring from his action and it showcases a small rainbow when the sun hits it just right. Again, I pause and reflect on the symbolic nature of the rainbow and God’s promises.

For a few sacred moments, he is at peace with his world and even I have caught a little peace just by being present in his world. He hears no other sound except the gushing water and the line; whip and run. With each new cast, he throws an old care. His mind relaxes under the circumstances he finds himself in and as he wades deeper into the cool water his body relaxes, too. I bet he wouldn’t care if he didn’t land a fish on the other end of his line. He already caught what he was fishing for anyway and a fish would be double the pleasure.

I like to watch him. He doesn’t know that I do and I would never intend to intrude on his great big world of paradise. Nor would I ever intend to profit from his bliss but joy is contagious and one cannot help but to fall into his love of the outdoors, the cool waters, the chance at a catch, his sacred spot and the peace that ensues. I don’t see this as dishonest gain on my part, taking something that was not mine to take, but simply guilty by association of the same mountain stream territory on this beautiful fall day. No, no shame at all on my part. I just want to hang out and watch him and I hope that I can convey his world with my words. If so, he will have given me the gift of a tranquil moment that I will recall each time I open the pages of my journal and read the entry entitled “The Trout Fisherman…Peace Like a River”.

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Worst of the Worst

I recognized his voice as he spoke with a colleague while they walked the hall and stopped at the office next to mine. I leaned in toward the sound just a little as to catch its aura because it was so impressive that I felt it had form enough to touch and to hold. I was simply infatuated with this man but I wasn’t the only one. He had lots of admirers. His very presence demanded, captured, and held one’s attention and respect until at which time he decided to unleash his reigns. Once in his presence, you were better for it. He just made you feel that way. It wasn’t that he made you feel special because making one feel special requires that you put forth a purposeful effort to invest in their lives. He didn’t invest in my life in that way but he simply acknowledged me, validated me, and gave me the dignity of recognition. He did that for everyone that he came in contact with.

We’ve all known people like this. Perhaps it was a teacher from your youth or a mentor, an aunt or uncle, a friend’s father or mother or perhaps it was your own mother or father but whoever it was, they lassoed you and drew you in and you succumbed to their advance. I’ve been fortunate and very blessed to work among some fabulous leaders during my corporate career. Likewise, I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to work among the worst of the worst. Yes, blessed. Blessed because by not emulating their bad behaviors, they taught me how to treat people.

I spent some years in a corporate job working with a “worst of the worst” type of guy. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult he was and how poor his behavior was, not just to me but to many. There were so many instances of failures on his part that people were left scratching their heads and breathing a collective sigh as his actions were excused time after time after time. It became a running joke in our organization and he was at the heart of it. Even as I type this, by-gone feelings begin to flutter in my heart and I feel sorry that I am even bringing up the topic. Really, I have forgiven him and I have moved on and I am better for it but I need to write about this because I fear that some of my readers (and some of my past co-workers) may be enduring a similar type of turmoil and what I want to say to you is life altering so please hang with me for the closing.

You need to reach a point of decision about the people whom you associate with, including co-workers, family, friends, neighbors…everyone. Ask yourself “Do I want this relationship?” If the answer is yes then continue to invest. Ask yourself “Do I need this relationship?” If the answer is yes then continue to invest. Pay attention….if you don’t want a relationship but you need a relationship, such as my relationship with “worst of the worst” then you need to declare some boundaries in order to survive. Boundaries could be that you leave the company like I did OR you could draw a line in the sand and let “worst of the worst” off the hook. In ordinary words, forgive them. Draw a line in the sand and name one side “the past” and one side “the present”. Step over into the present and leave the toxicity behind you, including the offenses of “worst of the worst”.

I participated in a Beth Moore study some time ago. It was the book of Ester and she said something so profoundly true that I will never be able to hold a grudge ever again (thank you, Beth and thank you, Lord for using her in this capacity!). Simply put…when we nurse a grudge against someone, the grudge ties us to them. Stay here and let that sink in a minute. When I held onto that grudge with “worst of the worst”, I held onto him. My skin just crawled as I said “ick!” out loud. It’s so true…I held onto those feelings of bitterness because of all the wrong he committed. I allowed a wedge of resentment to build between me and “worst of the worst” and that wedge held me to him. As quickly as this revelation came, my knees crushed the floor and I prayed “Father, forgive me and my offenses so that I can extend forgiveness to those that offend me.” Day after day, prayer after prayer, I reached a point where I didn’t care anymore about “worst of the worst”. His offenses still bothered me but I didn’t dwell there long and eventually I left the company (an answer to prayer). I don’t think about him much anymore except when I think of the friends and co-workers that are still there nursing their grudges. Since God will never favor a grudge, I wonder what the world would be like if we all learned how to forgive.

Say something, would ya!?

“Perpetrator” said one. “I guess we have more crime around here than I thought” said another. “In the swimming pool (laughing)” said yet another one. “Seven and a half inches in one day” still another voice told. These were the words that echoed among the halls as I journeyed the short walk from my desk to the break room. Upon arriving at my destination, I heard tidbits of other conversations but never the whole stories. “Go to that place on the corner” one woman instructed. “But the quantities don’t match” another said into his phone. “Dan wrecked it while putting it away so now we have to do repair work on the shingles” explained one. “I can’t believe he said that to you” barked another. The words, taken out of context, made no sense to me but then again the words were not intended for me but still they escaped from their confines and parked at my eardrums as if they expected me to respond.

According to one study, women speak an average of 20,000 words per day which is 13,000 more words than males speak http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2281891/Women-really-talk-men-13-000-words-day-precise.html . Let me give you a moment of pause so you can think of all the one lined jokes that would certainly credit this study (i.e. Women talk more because we’re constantly repeating ourselves to our men that don’t listen. Women talk more but they don’t really say anything; nag, nag, nag.). Seven thousand to twenty thousand is a huge gap but one that I am not surprised exists. I do concur that my female counterparts out speak our male counterparts but I had no idea that it was a 3 to 1 statistic. So this means that for every word my husband speaks, I speak three. Wow.

So with all the words being spoken out there in the realm of our minute existence in this great big world, what good comes of it? Given the statistics, it would seem that women waste breath on words while men speak only out of necessity but the study further showed that woman’s plentiful words are a result of a protein, Foxp2 known as the language protein. Both genders have the protein but women have more than men. No pun intended… in other words, blame it on our brain power. Ok, enough. Back to my question…What are women saying with so many words??? Are we just needlessly chatting or are we using our 20,000 word per day for the good??? And what about our men…what would our lives be like if they spoke up more?…if they matched us word for word???

So, here on my blog I am challenging myself this week (maybe you want to participate, too). I am not going to count my words each day but I am going to count the message that my words convey. I am going to be mindful of what I say to myself and what I say to others. The bible teaches that the tongue, a small bodily organ, is a rudder of great strength because it can direct our paths much like the small rudder on a boat directs the paths of the vessel (James 3:4). Our words have life and power and death and damnation (Proverbs 18:21). Lord, help me to speak words of life. Lord, if I am blessed with more Foxp2 proteins than the men and women in my life, let me bless them with words of wisdom and truths and power and not mindless chatter.

Pap Smears While You Work…Anyone???

Yes, you read it right but first allow me a few sentences to set the stage for this post.  I will assume that my readers understand what a pap smear is and who gets them so I will bypass that portion and get to the other stage notes. 

 Two years ago I left my office job at a large manufacturing plant after nineteen years and moved on to a new thing.  Recently, I went back to visit the people I worked with for those many years.  Amid the hugs and the smiles, I learned that the company had implemented a new benefit since my leaving.  I learned that the company had hired an on-site nurse practitioner and ANY employee can go see said nurse practitioner ANYTIME and WITHOUT a co-pay.  Needless to say, I was wowed.  This is a huge benefit for their employees and one that caused me a temporary moment to question my decision to leave my post.  I mean think about it…if you could skip down the hall and get your yearly physical as opposed to driving to the next town wasting gas and time, waiting an hour past your appointment in a waiting room with people hackin’ and sneezin’ and wheezin’, wouldn’t you consider it a perk?  Yesiree, I thought so.

 As if I wasn’t impressed enough already by the mere fact of the on-site nurse, my toes tingled after hearing the list of things this nurse practitioner can do IN the on-site office, ANYTIME and WITHOUT a co-pay.  For example, the nurse can draw blood and get it checked for whatever they check it for.  The nurse can check your blood pressure to ensure your blood is moving at a normal rate.  Said nurse can conduct physical exams, perform EKGs, handle workplace accidents and emergencies, prescribe treatment plans, write prescriptions, AND do pap smears.  Yes!, pap smears…if you are so inclined. 

 My mouth flew open and my jaw hit the floor upon hearing this tid bit.  I doubled over in pain from the laughter that ensued and I could not stop the instant onslaught of visions rushing through my head.  And believe me, I wanted to stop the visions cause there aint nothing cute about gettin’ one of them tests especially in an office in the middle of a manufacturing plant.  I could almost hear the “beep-beep-beep” of the tow truck as it zoomed up and down the aisle near the paper thin door while my unclothed yonder regions were hiked up and strapped onto those leg and foot supports.  Furthermore, I imagined overhearing the muffled sounds of men and women’s voices on their two-way radios as they called out for someone to clean up the spill in the break room and other important tasks. 

 I broke free from my pap smear visions only to chuckle about it with my friends.  I absolutely wasn’t poking fun and making jokes at the expense of those who chose to partake in the service because on a very serious note, LADIES…THIS IS AN IMPORTANT TEST and one you should have every year or two.  I was simply laughing at the very thought of my own self exposed there on the pap test table.  I applaud the company for providing the services of a nurse practitioner for their employees and I could not be more pleased that they have done so but as for me and my pap tests, well, we will see the doctor, two towns away.   

IMPORTANT leads to PRIORITY leads to PRODUCTIVITY…

The growing season has arrived here. It’s a time where we all emerge from our winter dens and shake off the lazy winter slumber in exchange for a pair of gardening gloves, yard tools, and good old brown dirt. This is precisely what I did over the weekend. I gave our summer porch a good scrubbing. I pulled out the chair cushions and fastened them back in place. I strung our ever popular outdoor lights along the porch railing. I put the planter boxes in their place and filled them with fresh dirt and marigolds. I pulled out the plant pots and got them ready to receive their herb of choice. I cleaned and filled the bird feeders. My chore list was long and the day was tiring but I knew I had to keep the end goal in mind if I were to enjoy the fruits of my labor. That is exactly what I did and at the end of the day, I finally sat down with a glass of wine and enjoyed the accomplishments of my task list and enjoyed the beautiful summer porch for the first time this season.

Our summer porch is the place where we relax at the end of a work day. It is the place where I sit in the mornings and have coffee and read. It is the place where guests are entertained, family gathers and chatter ensues. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty important place at our abode and it demanded my highest level of priority over the weekend.

Daily, we find time to do things. We go to work, pack lunches, check Facebook, unload the dishwasher, check the mailbox, drop clothes off at the cleaners, have lunch with a friend, call a sibling, get our hair cut, shop for groceries, fill up our gas tank, get a manicure, check the internet, cook dinner, read a magazine, check Facebook again, etc. But I ask which of these tasks are important and which ones are distractions that keep us from the important? I always giggle a bit when I hear someone say “I just don’t have time to do that” or “I wish I had time to go there” or “I need some time to relax”. I challenge you to take an inventory of your daily task list. If it’s important, make it a priority and you will find the time to achieve the task. If it’s not important, then assign the task a low priority so that it doesn’t become a distraction to the more meaningful things that you need to accomplish. In business, we like to say “What gets measured gets done”. Let’s not get too critical of our task list that we start to measure our output but let’s at least begin to think in terms of prioritizing our day so that we are the managers of our time instead of letting other things take charge over us. Be the boss!

Memories

Some memories take root and they take root for no apparent reason. They’re random thoughts that show up in our heads when we least expect them and jolt us into a past time. One minute you’re driving down the road thinking of nothing and then the next minute you are thrown into the slide show of yesteryear. Those memories can cause us great delight, to crack a smile, to shed a tear or to knot up and cringe but whatever the emotion they are always there lurking; waiting to surprise us; as did happen to me just yesterday.

I was driving into Nashville to meet my sister and my mother. We were driving east to spend the afternoon with my daughter who attends college in a sweet little town about an hour drive away. Before I could reach the meeting point, I was immediately dropped into a time when my sister and I were about five and eight years of age. We were visiting my grandmother for the weekend. My uncle and my aunt came to visit also. They were always so sweet to entertain us girls when we came for a weekend and this day they wanted to take us to the store to buy candy. Can you imagine our excitement? Back in that time, this was a real treat. We usually had to save our pennies and bottle refund money in order to have candy money but this day we required neither because we were being treated.

My uncle and aunt always had the coolest sports cars and this day we were piling into a 60’s model Mustang coupe, two adults in the front seats and two stringy haired, freckle faced girls in the back seat. Before I took my seat, my uncle barked “Watch your fingers!” but before I could watch my fingers, he slammed the door shut. Ouch! I screamed in agony and all ounce of color left my uncles face. He quickly opened the door, examined my purple fingers and carried me into the house. He doctored my wounds and wiped my tears. Lucky for me, nothing was broken. I can’t say that for my uncle. I think his feelings were broken.

They went onto the store without me and I stayed with my grandmother and kept my fingers wrapped in ice. A short time later they returned with candy. I found that sugar heals. Opening my very own little brown bag of sweetness, my hand hurt no more.

I have no clue why I recalled this memory on this particular day in this particular moment but it happened. It showed up without expectation. It was a memory that had taken root and some twenty plus years later I still have it stored in this head of mine. Perhaps it’s because I am trying not to rush through the seasons of my life anymore. I am trying to savor everything, every thought and every event and memory. I’m sure if my uncle had it to do over on that day he would have taken his time to get us loaded into the car and on our way. Let us enjoy the simplest tasks and not rush…delight in the “getting there” as much as the “being there”.