Crossing our Fingers and Eating Donuts

After almost 2 weeks of server problems and related email feed problems, I’m pleased to announce that we are close to being 100% functional — at least in the website department. In anticipation of the last piece coming into focus, hopefully at 5 a.m. on Thursday, August 28, I’d like to treat you to a donut. Similar to this one:

Here’s the catch. My email feed has to work tomorrow at 5 a.m. by sending this post to my joeycope.com subscription list. If it works, I’ll buy a couple of dozen donuts and provide the real thing to any of you who comes by the office in the morning.

So, if you’re on the list and you’re reading this on your email Thursday morning and you live within driving distance of Abilene, come on by 1541 North Judge Ely for a donut. If you’re not on the list, maybe you should sign up tonight. Use the form on the lower right of this page.

And, if you can’t come by, just enjoy the virtual donut above.

 

(The other good thing is that, if this works, I’ll no longer be staying up hours after my bedtime trying to find the problem. And, I’ll catch up on those posts about our Africa trip. Thanks to Brad Palmore at Branchweaver — unless this doesn’t work.)

25 Days and Counting – Hashtags

In preparing for Africa, we have been grateful for the many technological tools we have at our disposal. We have smartphones, tablets, laptops, digital cameras. We have blogs, FaceBook, Twitter. We’re learning about data roaming, Viber, FaceTime, special international calling plans. We’re loading books on eReaders and we’re writing journals in the cloud. And hashtags. We’re doing hashtags.

I’ve known about hashtags for some time now. Basically, hashtags are the speed dial of social media. If you tap the right hashtag about the right subject, you can pick up on news feeds and trending topics. You can be informed.

At some point, the topic came up and a decision was made that our team needed a hashtag.

To be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to that conversation because I am really not all that good at social media and thought that I would simply opt out of the hashtaggery. Before I knew it. We had a hashtag.

#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014

As a person who prefers 4-digit passwords, I was pretty sure that I would never be able to remember this one. Twenty-six characters counting the #. That’s like an alphabet. And it didn’t even have the name of my first dog embedded in it. Too much, I thought. Too much. I’ll never learn it.

But then, seeing other team members put it to use — and noticing when they would take my postings and dutifully repost with the hashtag — I decided to give it a try.

# – That part was easy.

SMU – Important. Tells people the origin of our group. This is a sponsored trip organized by the Dispute Resolution and Conflict Resolution Program at Southern Methodist University.

Rwanda – Where we’re going.

PeaceMission – What we’re doing.

2014 – When we’re going.

Painstakingly adding “#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014” to my post, I realized that basically I was achieving the equivalent of my first presentation in Speech 101. The hashtag attracted attention, told who we were, where we were going, what we were going to do, and when we were going to do it. As I prepared to click the “Tweet” button, I tried to remember what we were trained to do to overcome speech anxiety. So I imagined everybody on the Internet was naked.

Turns out, many are. But that’s beside the point.

We are not just taking a trip. We are telling a story. And whether we do it in 26 characters or a picture or a thousand words, it’s a story that will change many lives.

#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014

33 Days and Counting – Excitement

Just 33 days before Dan, Allison, Aaron, Robyn, Malcolm, Betty and I make our way to Africa. We don’t get to see each other every day. In fact, it’s been almost 3 weeks since we were all in the same room. Yet, through emails, some scattered phone calls, and even on our own private FaceBook group page, you can see the excitement building.

I can point to a lot of reasons for the excitement:

  • International travel to a beautiful place.
  • The rewards of bringing what we know about peace building to people whose life experiences will extend our own.
  • New friendships.
  • Partnerships with those who want to help our work through donations and gifts.
  • Opportunities to join with incredible ministries like African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries and Made In the Streets.
  • Just because nonchalantly saying “I’m going to Africa next month” has a degree of coolness that “I’m going to Tuscola” doesn’t quite reach. (I was talking to a phone sales representative about setting up an international calling plan for Africa and she just stopped right in the middle of the call and said, “I am so excited for you. And I’m a little jealous.” Then there’s that.)

But primarily, we are excited because this is what we have trained for and hoped for. We are excited because this is our chance to do something that matters. We are excited because we know how richly we have been blessed. We are excited. Because.

Countdown days 35 through 30 were written on the right days — but posted late because of a major web server outage. My apologies for the delay in posting and for posting several a day to catch up.

The Nature of Glass

This article appeared as part of my Distinct Impressions series over a decade ago. So many of our fears are unwarranted. Yet, as we dwell on the unlikely, our anxiety builds. And so it was that, on an elevator in Atlanta, I began to consider the nature of glass.

Photo Credit: LeoSynapse at FreeImages.com

There are 47 floors at this Marriott in Atlanta and the elevators move upward in a giant cavern-like atrium.  While I was looking up from the lobby, someone commented that it appeared that we were in the belly of a big ol’ whale.  (Made me wonder what everyone else in the lobby had done to make God angry.  I had a pretty good idea why I would’ve been tossed off the boat . . .)

I really hadn’t much thought about glass elevators until I boarded one with 15 other people yesterday.  I was the last one to get on.  There was a lady at the front of the car who moved toward me as soon as the door closed.

“Excuse me, but I’ve got to be up close to that door,” she said.  “If I look out the glass, I’ll grow faint and I’ll probably throw up.”

With that she pushed me further back in the car.  It was probably a group dynamic thing, but I suddenly found my face pressed against the glass, unable to back away.  All I could think about was her last words, “look out the glass . . . faint . . . throw up.”

Words are powerful weapons in the hands of trained professionals.

As the express elevator quickly bypassed the first 30 floors, little beads of sweat broke out on my head.  But I couldn’t force my eyes closed.  I just kept watching the floor fall away.

But I got a grip on myself and began to think rationally.  This glass between me and oblivion was substantial.  In fact, it was plated glass — strong enough to walk on.  I couldn’t break this glass if I tried.  I started going through everything I knew about glass.  It was then that I remembered . . .

Glass is a liquid, you know.  Over time it will actually “flow” as gravity pulls it earthward.  Next time you’re in an old house check it out.  The glass at the bottom of the windows will be thicker.

(That is one of the few things I learned in college physics.  That course, by the way, is why I didn’t pursue a medical degree.  I figured if all I really learned from eight hours of credit was that glass was viscous, I might not be particularly well prepared for a career that seems to pivot on scientific knowledge.)

Suddenly viewing my safety barrier as a liquid wasn’t the best idea of the day.  The thought flashed on my memory screen about the time the door opened. I moved quickly and decisively to nimbly assist the queasy woman off the elevator.

She would have been more grateful if it had been her floor.

I didn’t think the fact that I also had gotten off on the wrong floor was something I needed to bring up.  So, after I apologized and pressed the button for another elevator for her, I wheeled around and strode confidently down the hall.

When I got out of her sight, I ducked in the stairwell and slowly ascended to my floor.  Not slowly enough it seems.  As I crossed in front of the elevators on the way to my room, my new-found friend was just getting off.

“I couldn’t find the ice machine on my floor,” I said for her benefit and walked toward a likely location for an ice machine.  She was kind enough not to ask what I intended to put the ice in. When I was sure she was in her room, I went back to the elevator platform and pressed the button for one more ride to the bottom and back up. I had to restore my confidence — in elevators, in glass, and in myself.

Why is it that we can think ourselves into fear?  And perhaps more disturbing, why is it we can think our way out?  Surely, raw intellect can’t be the answer to every problem we face.

Tomorrow I fly home to Abilene.  The good news is the plane windows aren’t made of glass.  I don’t think that Plexiglas is a liquid.  If you know different, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to think about it.

Slow is the New Excruciating

Let’s face it. I’m not an exercise fanatic.

I don’t do CrossFit. I don’t run, walk, or crawl long distances. Shucks, I don’t even stand up straight most of the time.

But I am fairly active. And when I’m not traveling, I make a valiant effort to hit the gym 5 times a week. Yes, I do travel a lot, but you’re missing the point here.

I also read things on the internet about working out. And weight loss. I’m not carrying around a lot of extra weight, but I’d be much better off if I was 10 or 15 pounds lighter. Not a day goes by that my attention is not captivated by the “I ate green bananas and bad cheese and YOU WON’T BELIEVE what happened next!!!” headlines. (Actually, I think most of us really would believe what would happen next. And it’s not the result the article would lead you to believe.)

Again, you’re missing the point. I work out . . . some.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I decide to quit playing it safe and to start testing the boundaries of my endurance and strength. Somewhere I read that rather than doing long, same-paced bouts on the elliptical machine and the treadmill I should insert some workouts with intermittent changes in resistance. Shortly thereafter I became a fan of the “Hill+” feature of my cardio equipment. Basically, I choose a hill, set a speed, enter a level (and I really don’t know what that means, but I pick one dead in the center of the offered range), set a time, and go. For the next half hour, the blinking red pixels on the screen tell me that I’m facing incredible inclines. The resistance tightens or the deck of the treadmill takes on a frightening angle and I proudly huff and puff my way through.

These programs have yet another feature — COOL DOWN. On the elliptical, it’s simply 5 minutes with less resistance. But on the treadmill, it lowers the incline AND cuts the speed a little bit every minute, until in the last minute, I’m creeping along at 1 mile per hour.

The last three of those 5 cool-down minutes are extremely hard for me. After a quick pace (and again, “quick” is a relative term — don’t judge me) for half an hour, the slower rhythm is difficult to tolerate. When I get to that last minute, not only are my legs screaming at me to get moving, but I become aware of another feeling.

I’m embarrassed.

What if someone is watching me? How decrepit do I look . . . slowly lifting my feet and planting them again as the belt slips past me at the speed of old chocolate syrup?

Yet, I am determined to stay true to the program, dictated to  me by the machine, as a test of my patience — not to mention just a little allegiance to that obsessive-compulsive gene that lurks within me.

In moments of clarity, I recognize the fact that no one is going to be watching me at the gym. After all, the tall blonde at the end of the row watching movies on her iPad and laughing uncontrollably while she gallops at 20 to 30 miles per hour, not to mention the guy dressed up like a pirate on the elliptical behind me, tend to garner most of the attention of every other individual in the place.

Sometime in those same moments, I began to realize that slowing down is something I’m missing in a lot of areas of my life. God didn’t give us the Sabbath without putting a lot of thought into it. He and all of nature recognize the importance of cycles. Of working hard. Of taking rest. Of slowing down. Of learning to match our pace to those around us who need someone to walk with.

It remains difficult and sometimes excruciating to slow down. But if you master the art, you’ll have a far better life. And people will notice.