Yet Another Day

Dad's legacy

For most of my years, my mornings have begun before my alarm goes off. And almost every one of those mornings, Dad’s words for success would ring clear as if he was right there.

“The true key to doing well is putting your feet firmly on the floor before your alarm goes off every morning.”

Those were words he shared during the relatively few times that I worked for him in the highway construction business. We needed to be away from the house before dark and on the job by daybreak. And ready to last the day — often until the sun went down.

Through the years, as I reach to turn off the alarm that hasn’t sounded, I wonder why this life of work was so valued — so prized — by my dad. My father never had a grand view of who he was. He was just Joe. Mr. Joe to many of his workers. Eventually Papa Joe to young people — including my sons and my granddaughter. He just put his feet firmly on the floor every morning and did what he could do. But he was a giant and a saint and an encourager. A man who others wanted to be around and to have around when things needed to be done.

And I’m convinced he was who he was because he believed a simple truth:  We should take full advantage of every day that God gives us.

And that belief is how we change the world. No grand schemes. No crowd-funding. No hype. Feet on the floor. Showing up. Doing what we can do. Making full use of God’s day.

Things have changed as I’ve become older. Now, instead of waking up just moments before my alarm sounds, it’s often an hour. I don’t know if Dad’s legacy has left me convinced that I need more time to do what I can do or if it’s just the normal nocturnal churnings of an aging body. But lately, I’ve been eager to get my feet firmly on the floor. I’ve been given another day.

The Introvert’s Need

The Introvert's Dream

I’m just tired of thinking and talking.

There comes that moment in every introvert’s day or week or month or year when she or he just needs to stop thinking and talking. We need to let our brains roam free, disengage, rehydrate, rest.

I’m to that moment.

But life isn’t.

And so, I’ll think and talk and listen and advise.

And I’ll dream there’s something else.

And God will give me what I need.

The Fate of Champions

Looking for sacrifice, not conquest

Records were set on social media yesterday when the world was introduced to Caitlyn Jenner, the transformed individual we have known as Bruce Jenner. Before you settle back and think that this post is about what is right or wrong about that story . . . stop. I have some opinions about that. But this post is about a larger theme.

When something different emerges, whether it is a different thought, a different approach to a problem, a different ideal, or a different lifestyle, those who are inclined to the difference go out in search of a champion.

“If we could just find someone with an established reputation and reveal them to be ‘our different,’ our cause will be catapulted forward.”

I don’t fault that logic. It’s much easier to create a buzz over a household name or a public figure than it is to take an ordinary person as a spokesperson.

We want champions. We select people who have a public presence and we gladly sacrifice their image. We happily stand by as critics draw beads on them personally and subject them to ridicule and tear them apart — less as champions and more as sad objects of ridicule.

As I watched the news and social media this morning, many were praising Caitlyn Jenner for her courage, many were pitying her for her plight, many were vocal about what went wrong, many were expressing alarm over what the world is coming to, and many, many, many were making jokes and reducing Caitlyn to less than she is . . . a human being made and loved by God with strengths and weaknesses, just like the rest of us.

Despite the claims that Bruce Jenner is now free to be who he wanted to be and that Caitlyn Jenner is gloriously happy in her new life, there is a more sordid side.

The darkness comes from those who were glad to see Jenner become a champion in this. And the glad people aren’t on just one side or the other of the controversy.

You see, when something different needs a champion, we often choose based on who is expendable. And if we oppose the change the difference foretells, we focus our negative thoughts and hatred on destroying the champion.

Let’s get away from the glitz and the hype of our entertainment industry heroes. We do the same thing for other different and often unpopular causes.

Those who have spoken out against racism are often ostracized and physically threatened. Unpopular political positions on the economy, immigration, gun control, and healthcare, to mention a few, are rarely discussed in productive dialog. Instead, those who speak out on both sides are targeted and subjected to hateful speech and behavior. Sometimes these “champions” are often outspoken using the same vitriolic bile as their opponents because they naively believe that their fate will be written as conquest instead of sacrifice.

The rest of us stand away from the violence of the words and the fists. In a morbid moment, we look forward to the day that our champion will be our martyr. You see, we never really expected them to win the war. We just wanted them to buy us a few more bullets.

I don’t know if Caitlyn Jenner is happier now. My view of celebrities is that very few of them are ultimately happy. My sole point here is that it is sad what we will do to the champions, regardless of their cause.

As you think about your cause and about the way you want to make the world different, be careful in choosing a champion. You have, in all likelihood, turned them into a living sacrifice.

There are real champions, of course. Look around you. They are the ones who quietly serve and make a difference. The measure of their impact is often one person at a time. You may not know their names, but real champions don’t need publicists or social media accounts.

Real champions aren’t always conquerors. They can be sacrificial offerings, as well. Yet, real champions choose neither the path of conquest or of sacrifice. Real champions choose only to serve.

Patience is Passion Practiced

I’ve seen several quotes on patience recently. I’m not sure if it’s because my impatience makes those words jump out at me or if we’re just getting to the “Ps” in all of the quote books. I’m learning that patience isn’t what I thought it was — a state of utter calmness and disconnection. No, patience is a place of turmoil and restraint and battle. Patience is passion practiced.

Many of my readers know that I have learned a lot from my dogs — past and present. But I never thought that patience would be on the list of lessons. And particularly not with Togo. But at 5:45 this morning, there he was, a model of patience.

Togo is our 70+ pound husky-wolf mix. He’s an amazing little boy and a tightly-packaged bundle of energy and, often, mischief. And he’s a gourmet when it comes to dog food. We tend to settle in to one particular brand and one particular type of food for Togo. Frequent changes sometimes lead to upset stomachs so we try to stay consistent. But stores don’t always stay consistent and the merchandise on the 25 lb sack aisle sometimes change. Thus was the case this week when Nancy went to replenish our stock.

On the advice of the clerk, Nancy selected a new brand and flavor. And, as responsible pet owners, we began the process of slowly introducing the new food to Tog0, mixing it with the rapidly disappearing old food. To do this, I carry a pre-measured position of the new food in a plastic bag. If I can, I’ll hide this treasure in a pocket of a jacket. But hiding doesn’t work when it comes to Togo and food. He can smell it. He knows it’s there and he knows it’s for him. He is, shall we say, passionate about his dining experience.

As I pour the new in with the old, he stands next to me with his front paws up on the counter, pushing at the bowl and the bag with his nose. Then, as I pick up his bowl he bounces toward and around me, sometimes barking, always urging me to relinquish my hold. As I begin to lower the bowl to its appointed place on the porch, he sits, looks at me and leans in toward his breakfast.

But he waits. Some of you may remember part of our feeding ritual with Togo. We pause for prayer before eating.

So, with his enthusiasm just bursting from within, Togo sits and waits for me to say the prayer. And only on that “amen” does he begin.

No, Togo isn’t a practicing theologian. No, he doesn’t understand my words. Yes, if I didn’t ask him to wait, he wouldn’t. But what’s remarkable is that he values the moment enough to practice patience.

Part of my prayer is that I could be more like Togo in that regard. Passionate, fighting and struggling to do what is right and expected, valuing the moment, but patient to wait.