Refresh them

What is it about flying that makes the beverage service so refreshing?

When we lived in Dallas we were regularly picking up guests from the airport. It was about a thirty minute commute. At some point I started bringing cold water, Coke, or Gatorade with me. I’d park, go find my guest, help them get their luggage to the car, and then offer them something to drink. I figured if it feels that good on the plane–perhaps it feels that good on the ride home.

So simple. So refreshing.

Can we be “cup of cold water after a long flight” kind of people? What would that look like?

If someone says, “Thank you, you’re a breath of fresh air.” You’re hitting it. Even if they don’t say it–if you can make them feel it then you’re accomplishing more than you realize. Even if they don’t feel it–your hospitable mindset is a very powerful contributor to your own growth. Keep it up.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Long distance

I married my high school sweetheart after four years of mostly long-distance dating (we got to see each other occasionally).

This was before cell phones. We used snail mail, email, AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, and a weekly phone call.

It was excruciating.

Today there are a lot more tech options. Great tools that work well and are less expensive.

However, I’m not convinced that relating over distance is any easier now than it was back in the day.

We are embodied. We’re meant to communicate in person. Everything else is a downgrade–a less real option–that both helps our longing a bit, but also provokes it at the same time. Like a few sips of water for an extremely thirsty person.

Dad encouraged me when I was embarking on this four-year distance by saying, “Dan, there are two sayings about absence: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’; or ‘Absence makes the heart wander.’ Obviously we’re all hoping that the first saying will be true in your case. But if it isn’t–and you two drift apart–you’ll still be well served by this trial. It’s better to know now than later what your love is really made of.”

If you’re struggling with a long-distance relationship–that’s totally normal. It’s always hard. There are lots of things you can do to make it less difficult, but if you’re hoping to find the “key” that will make the ache go away–it doesn’t exist.

And besides long-distance romance, if you’re struggling right now relating across social distance–that’s normal too. We’re physical creatures longing for proximity.

Who are they?

Fred Rogers, in his acceptance speech for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Emmy Awards, surprised the viewers by requesting that they spend 10 seconds in silence thinking about the people in their lives that have helped them become who they are today. He looks down at his watch and says, “I’ll watch the time.”

The camera pans to a thoughtful audience–some bow their heads and close their eyes.

He continues: “Whomever you’ve been thinking about; how pleased they must be to know the difference that you feel they’ve made.”

So, who are they? Spend ten seconds thinking about them. I’ll watch the time.

Now, Fred–excuse me–Mr. Rogers acknowledges in his speech that some who have shaped him are now in heaven. That may be the case for you. Spend a moment thanking God for their lives.

But many others may still be living. What if they received a note from you expressing your thanks? How would that change today for them?

Finally, who will we have contact with today? What would our interactions look like if we aspired to be one of the people that our coworkers, friends, family members, students would instantly think about if a Mr. Rogers asked them to spend ten seconds being grateful for those who have shaped them?

Have a great day, neighbor.

Repetition

I have this fear of repeating myself. It started a few years ago when I realized that I was always having the same memory as I was driving past some particular landmark, and would tell Diedra the same story that I told the last time I passed that thing on the road. We’d have a little chuckle–but inside I started to worry: “Oh no! I’m repeating myself!”

I’ve also noticed that it’s easy to feel a bit offended when you need to repeat yourself. It’s easy to think: “Really? Do I really need to say this again? I feel like a broken record!”

Occasionally, when I’ve wanted to share a message with my staff, privately, with each staff member individually–I was surprised to learn that I had only delivered the message to half the staff when I felt like I said it over and over and over again. If you’re not literally keeping a list, it’s very easy to think you’ve made a speech fourteen times when you’ve actually only said it seven times.

Repetition is weird. So are our perceptions of repetition. So are our memories (or lack thereof) of our repetition (or lack thereof).

But leaders are actually supposed to repeat themselves. A lot. It’s part of the job. Here’s a great quote that I find tremendously liberating from the fear of repetition:

Finally, the effective leader understands that the message has to be communicated again and again and again. If you listen to the most influential leaders, you will see that they repeat themselves over and over. This is not the monotonous repetition of a single-track mind, but the intentional, symphonic, and strategic repetition of central truths, cherished beliefs, common strategies, and shared principles.

Those closest to you will hear you say the same things repeatedly. Your closest associates may be able to lip-synch some of your lines and expressions. You cannot worry about that. Your charge is to lead, and this means knowing that you will have to show up again and again with the same clear, consistent, and courageous message.

Albert Mohler, The Conviction to Lead, 96.

Both/and or either/or

There are two types of dualisms: The both/and and the either/or.

The both/and means that I can love both Moose Tracks and Peppermint ice cream.

The either/or means that one may be either married or not married.

Sloppy thinking occurs when we try to force a both/and into an either/or. I don’t have to pick which of my four children are my favorite. They are all my favorite.

Sloppy thinking (or worse) also occurs when we try to force an either/or into a both/and. A choice must be made. Choose wisely.

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

John 6:67-69

“Supposing it didn’t”

The wind was against them now, and Piglet’s ears streamed behind him like banners as he fought his way along, and it seemed like hours before he got them into the shelter of the Hundred Acre Wood and they stood up straight again, to listen, a little nervously, to the roaring of the gale among the tree-tops.

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”

“Supposing it didn’t” said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this, and in a little while they were knocking and ringing very cheerfully at Owl’s door.

A. A. Milne, The House At Pooh Corner, 132-133.
Illustration by Ernest H. Shepard

Most of what we fear will happen never happens. Some things we never fear will happen actually do happen.

On this blustery day, Pooh carefully decides that he can comfort his friend with a hopeful thought–the odds are in their favor that a tree will not fall on them.

And, in this case, it worked. Piglet was comforted.

Some fears won’t be rationalized with. Most will–it’s worth the work. It’s also a kindness to help a friend think about things from a different perspective.

So, my friends, let’s go visit Owl, shall we? After all, we know the One who commands the wind.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:27

Make a plan

My brilliant choral director in high school, Marcia Yost, had several catch phrases that I still remember. One was, “Don’t forget your pieces and your parts”–a funny way to remind us to actually check and make sure we had our socks, shoes, cummerbund, button studs, cuff links, bow tie, jacket, shirt and…what am I forgetting…Oh yes–my pants!

She would also regularly say, “Make a plan, work a plan.” Particularly when she saw the overwhelmed look in our eye as she handed out piles of music at the beginning of the semester.

Put the work on a timeline and take it one day at a time.

It’s too prickly

Of course, we don’t naturally like all textures, do we? That scratchy shirt, or the textures of certain foods we don’t prefer. 

C.S. Lewis, in his allegory, The Great Divorce, imagines heaven as a substantial place, a weighty place. In this place, the redeemed become solid and are able to bend the grass as they walk; but some of the ghostlike visitors hate it—because they aren’t solid enough. The grass is harder than they are. It’s too uncomfortable (and in their discontent, they actually get back on the bus to leave). 

Parents work hard to try to get kids not only to eat their vegetables, but to learn to love them. To actually prefer them over less substantial food. 

Growth is a lifelong process of learning to love what God loves and to hate what God hates. A lot of it is fun—thrilling, actually. Much is extremely painful, a process the Bible refers to as daily “crucifixion.”

But the promise is that the joy will be far greater than the suffering. That He will make all things new. That our tears will not be wasted—that the faithful will become solid at last and be able to bend that glorious grass underfoot in the High Country.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

It’s soft

“I love this shirt because it’s soft.”

What are you talking about?

Until I met Diedra–my high school sweetheart, now wife–It never would have occurred to me to like a garment because of its texture. Clothes were functional–they need to work. Clothes were also visually aesthetic–it would definitely be a help if they looked good. But soothing somehow? Or comforting? Cozy? Never thought much about that before.

Texture matters. A lot. Besides clothing, it matters with the foods you like (or dislike); it matters with the materials chosen for furnishings; it’s often the one of the essential differences on the spectrum between cheap or luxurious–chintzy or quality.

What’s your texture? How do people experience your body language? Your words? Your tone? Your work?

Who are the people in your life that add rich texture to your experience? What is it about them that is true, good, and beautiful?

That’s glory. It comes from God.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Focused practice

We’d all like to skip to the part where we’re awesome.

We all enjoy the feeling of competence. It’s much more fun to play an old piece than it is to learn a new one. Thus, it’s tempting to use our rehearsal time on things we are already good at.

But if you want to grow–you have to courageously identify and do focused practice on the parts you’re not good at. Not as much fun–but a much bigger payoff in the long run.

Of course, I’m not just talking about music–any new skill you want to acquire requires this courageous step toward the tricky spots and drilling your way to mastery.