Sunday, May 30, 2010

Watching People

I admit it. One of my favorite things to do is to watch people. My wife and I do this when we are on vacation, in a department store, having dinner at a favorite spot - anywhere we see people we are intrigued by their behavior. As far as we can tell, we are really the only normal people left on the planet. Just kidding.

I watched the Father fuming about something and his kids listening to him with painful looks on their faces. The man clearly had no idea how strange he looked with his ranting and raving behavior.

We watched the little children on the playground running and climbing and falling. Some of them seemed totally free and willingly to try anything. Others seemed timid and hesitant and worried how the other children are reacting to them.

I watched a group of teens together - no one was talking to each other. Each one was texting or twittering or facebooking - but they never spoke to each other. Seemed odd to be with your friends and to not talk to each other.

I watched two guys looking over a new bass boat - they were so excited. Their eyes were lit up and their conversations were so animated. Like kids in a candy store.

I watched an older couple having dinner - he cut up her meat. She touched his hand. They seemed very content and happy.

All the world is a stage -- there is drama going on all around us. I wonder what people say about me when they see me. Do they say "He seems so excited about life - happy - those two have been together for a long time. They really enjoy each others company. That must be their Grand Kids with them - what great fun they all seem to be having."

I hope people see something like that because that really is my life.

Remember: I am watching you! So for heaven's sake do something amazing!

Just thinking, Steve

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost Thoughts

The end is near. Those who have been addicted to this strange phenomenon called "Lost" will watch the final episode this Sunday. The title is really appropriate because the more I discuss it with others the more "lost" I feel.

I am glad that this is all going to be over soon. I have lost my bearings and need to get back to believing that I know where I am and what is happening. What happened to those days when I always knew who the bad guys were and who the good guys were? It may have all be a facade but it was so comforting to feel as if you knew who you could trust.

So I plan to swear off any more long pondering thoughts about the meaning of "Lost". What it really means is that the people who wrote, produced, and starred in this series are now loaded and famous and will be headed to Tuscany for a long vacation with no concern about the cost. I on the other hand will do my normal low cost vacation to the Hill Country and watch what I spend while I am there.

My favorite story about a guy lost on a tropical island goes like this: A guy falls off a cruise ship and survives, swimming his way to a beautiful beach on a tiny island in the Pacific. After he has lived there for many years all by himself, one day a boat lands on the beach with a couple on board. He welcomes them to the island and takes them to his beach hut that he has constructed. He prepares a meal with all the fresh fruits and nuts that grow on the island. They are quite impressed with his hut and the food and the life that he has carved out for himself. He asks if they would like a tour of the island and they said sure. So he takes them on a walking tour of the island and they arrive at a beautiful little chapel - a church building that he had built himself. He told them this is where he worships each Sunday. They continued their tour and soon arrived at another little church building. The guests were very puzzled - "What is this?" they asked. The man responded: "This is where I used to go to church before I got mad and left and built the new church building you saw earlier."

I could not resist. Sorry. It would be funnier if there was not something prophetic in the little story.

Enjoy the last episode of "Lost". I am expecting something bizarre. And, of course, that is really why I watch - the expectation of something really weird.

Just thinking, Steve

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Generous Heart

I recently read about a person who loaned her car to some friends while she was out of town on a business trip. Some weeks later she received a very unexpected gift in the mail - a speeding ticket. The ticket was mailed as the result of a "red light camera" and the photo clearly showed her license plate number going through the intersection. She tried to remember driving through that intersection but could not ever remembering being there. Then she checked the date - it was the week her friends had borrowed the car from her. What would you do?

This person did something I am not sure I would have even thought of doing. She paid the ticket and never mentioned it to her friends. What she knew was that for her friends this would have been a real financial burden - they were living on a very limited budget. She also knew that they would never deliberately run a red light. So she simply acted out of a generous heart.

Sometimes I kid myself and say that money does not matter to me. I almost pride myself on living a simple lifestyle with no debt. But sometimes it becomes clear to me that there are moments when I love money too much. I am not proud of this but I know that it is true.

A generous heart finds ways to protect, to show respect, to give quietly to others in need. I truly want that kind of heart.

My old Grandpa was as generous as they come. Once his old friend died and did not have any teeth - my old Grandpa gave him his teeth so he would not look so bad in the casket. That's real generosity.

One of my Profs in college, a man with two PhD.'s, a brilliant mind, who taught hundreds of students every semester, took the time to come to my wedding and to buy Linda and I a gift. I still remember the gift - a very nice teapot. That act of generosity took place almost 37 years ago and it still blesses my life. I recently saw him again and my heart was so full to see this dear old man, now well into his 80's, still brimming over with love. When that old teapot would whistle I would think of his generous heart.

Paul said, "God loves a cheerful giver." I do too. And so do you.

Be generous - I am determined to be more generous than ever.

Just thinking, Steve

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Do You Feel Competent?

I have many things in my life that are easy for me. Meeting new people is easy for me. I am one of those "extroverts" that drive you crazy when they make friends with the waitress at the corner cafe and the security guard in the parking lot and the President of the Bank, and the custodian at the school and the next door neighbor that no one talks to, because he is odd. Meeting people is easy and getting them to talk about themselves is a snap for me. Doing regular exercise is easy for me, not that I always want to get out of bed early, but I am by nature and habit a morning person who loves to be outside and get moving. Getting excited about a new adventure, something I have not tried before is easy -- the payoff is often learning something new about myself and others and I really enjoy that.

I have things that are not as easy for me. Confronting someone about a problem is not easy - I do it quite regularly, but I often feel nervous and anxious before hand. Buying big ticket items is nerve racking to me -- I would never buy a car, house, or anything very expensive again, if I did not feel I had to. Part of the reason, is because I don't want to let go of my money and because I feel very unsure whether I would ever get a "good deal", what ever that means. When I have to do it, I do my research and I get it done but it is never easy for me.

All of us need a certain level of competence. We need to feel capable of making decisions and of doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. This is a basic skill of living.

Day after day, I interact with amazing people who are remarkable in their talent and skills. And yet many of them feel incompetent. I am blown away by this. I spend a great deal of time and energy convincing people that they have what it takes to be successful.

In his novel, Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo portrays a startling scene between two of the main characters in the book, a Father and Son. The Son is now grown and his Father confides in him a deep, dark secret with the plea, "Don't tell nobody". He tells his son, that every election he would go to the voting booth and he would stay in the booth long enough to fill out the ballot, but in reality he never voted. For all his life, he felt the urge as an American citizen and knew it was his right and privilege to vote but he never felt competent to decide and so he never did.

I almost wept when I read that scene. To feel so insecure and incapable and the end result is to be frozen, unable to act - what misery that must be.

I meet truly amazing people week after week, who have great gifts from God and yet they feel as if they do not have anything to offer this world. Much of what good friendship is about is to encourage our friends and associates to use their talents and to believe that with God's rich blessings they have much to offer and the joy is using those talents.

My word for you today is that even in your weakest moment you are valuable and capable of being a blessing - Paul, the great Christian writer, said it this way "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Cor. 12)

I offer this word of encouragement - you are capable and competent for the challenges that come your way - tackle each one with courage and with confidence that God will help you to do or say what is needed. Go for it, friend!

Just thinking, Steve Yates