I have been thinking a lot lately about conversations and communication with others lately. It started off simply enough by going to our local Farmer’s Market to pick up some squash. I grew up going to the Farmers Market on Scott Street in Memphis every year, but I had not been to one in several years and was surprised at the change. There was an older couple dancing to some live music as I walked up and it was nice to see them enjoying themselves. The booths were there with fresh produce, but there was a difference. Most of the produce I saw was for sale in one or two serving packages and was more expensive than I thought it would have been. I am guessing the packaging was for the dare I say “Yuppie Lifestyle”. It seemed expensive to me due to the fact it was much higher than the grocery stores. Before you lambast me I am not against farmers. This was just different from what I was expecting.
When I was growing up we went to the Farmer’s Market because we did not have a lot of money and it was a great way to put up produce for the winter. We bought several different large mesh bags of peas, beans, corn,and other produce. We finished off by going down watermelon row and getting a watermelon to take home. Afterwards we would start the shelling process. We shelled at our house and then went to my grandparents and helped them shell their produce as well. This went on for at least a week or more. Your fingers would turn different colors and would be sore. But something more important was happening. This is where we would sit and talk. We told stories and laughed. I learned things and heard stories about my relatives; some of which I can never print. We also talked about life and God. I did not think much of it at the time, but we had lots of these kind of events in our family. Looking back these conversations were an important part of my life.
This past week my family went to see the “Wizard of Oz” at the Orpheum Theater. This was my first time to see the movie. I had seen bits and pieces and knew the story line, but my girls decided I needed to see the whole thing. We went for a supper before the movies and got there early so we could get a good seat. We had about 45 minutes to sit and talk. We laughed and just hung out. However, I noticed something as we sat there. All over the theater there were families sitting together, but almost all of them were on their phones. One guy below me was there with his wife and son. He was surfing the internet looking at Facebook, ESPN and other things. He was wasting time when he could have been interacting with his family. One mother beside me texted through the whole movie.
Before you think I am some kind of prehistoric animal let me assure you that I love my technology and I enjoy using it. However, there is a time and place for everything and sometimes we need to shut it off. Have you ever been out with friends and they continue to have major text conversations the whole time? I want to say “ just call me when you have time for me”. Where are the times in our lives when we are having conversations? As I am dealing with young people I am starting to realize that they are having a hard time really communicating to each other. Marriages are starting off with two people who talk like they are texting – short and shallow. There is a great post about this on Desiring God: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/six-ways-your-phone-is-changing-you
I know we cannot go back to the way things were, but we do have to build in times when we can talk and listen. Our spouses deserve this and our children need this in their lives. Counselors will tell you that parents are one of the top influencers in their children’s lives. The question becomes “ How can all of us do a better job?”
I have read several business books on creating a “wow” experience. I even try to create some experiences at my job. A “wow” experience is something that catches you off guard; an experience that you were not expecting and it goes beyond your expectations. To be honest I am not sure I had ever had a “wow” experience. Last week that changed for me.
For the last five weeks my daughter had been traveling with a study abroad program. She made all of her own flight and travel arrangements. She had a long layover coming back in Houston so I suggested she stay at the hotel attached to the airport. She made her reservations and went on her trip. While she was gone I noticed the hotel had already charged my credit card. I asked her to send me her confirmation number so I could check her reservation. She was staying at the Marriott Houston Airport, so I called the desk there and asked about her reservation. They could not find anything on file. As we talked I told them how they had already charged my card and she had not gotten there yet. The lady came back on the phone and said that the reservation was made for June 4th and not July 4th. I told her my priority was getting a room on July 4th. She made a new reservation and told me that she would turn it over to customer service and I would hear from them in four to five business days. In my mind I thought I know how this is going to end, but mistakes happen.
Here is where the story starts getting good. Amanda Carson,Senior Rooms Operations Manager, emailed back in two days not five and adjusted the charge to my card. I emailed the Amanda back and thanked her for doing that. The mistake was on our end and not theirs. They had every right to charge me. I explained to her that my daughter was in China for five weeks doing a study abroad program and she had just accidentally clicked the wrong button when she made her reservation. That was a nice thing for her to do. Marriott had my attention at this point.
The “wow” came next. Amanda emailed back and said she knew my daughter would be tired when she arrived. Could I give her the flight information and she would have a snack basket waiting for her in her room. When my daughter arrived at her room there was a snack basket waiting on her. The basket had a “welcome back” note on it with her name. This was above and beyond. Not only had they adjusted my charge when they did not have to; they also showed concern for my daughter and made sure she had a great welcome when she arrived. At this point as a father they had my loyalty. I am not sure what their cost was on the basket, but it is paying dividends. Granted I do not get a chance to travel very much, but when I do I will check on Marriott first. Also; how many people do you think I have told about this? Several in person, this Blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I know they are a business and they have to make a profit, but in this day and age it was nice to see a business with a personal touch.
Having the right people in customer service is key for any business. Marriott at Houston Airport has a great team. My daughter talked about how every person at that hotel went above and beyond to make sure she had everything she needed. They even helped her with her flight the next morning. It was great to have a “wow” experience.
The question now becomes “ how can I give others a wow experience?” We never know what will make an impact on someone.
Have you met anyone lately who had nothing to do and lots of free time? When I talk with adults who have retired their number one comment is that they may have to go back to work just to get some rest. Everyone I know is super busy. I was talking with someone this week and we were discussing how you never hear anyone say they are bored anymore. With our technology with us all the time we can always pull up a website, or play a game.
Jobs have been combined and people are doing way more than they may have in the past. Everyone tries to squeeze in just one more thing. In the past we may have asked what is the cost of all of this, but I think that question is too far gone. Everything is going to cost something in this day and time. Perhaps the better question is “ What is the trade off?”. There are no margins in our day to day life anymore so we are at the point of having to make trades.
Do we add one more project to an over crowded workday? Do we trade doing twenty things adequately for 10 things that are better? Does this effect our family life when we are more stressed and taking extra time away? We all know the answer to these questions and in some work environments we may not have a choice. However, I think we can say “no” more often then we realize. I have managed staff at different times. As a supervisor I knew how much we needed to get done, but I also realize that sometimes I forgot how much they were already doing.
There are costs and trades that will always have to be made. I believe one of the biggest costs in all of this is the time to think and reflect. As Christians we schedule our quiet times to make sure we get the 15, 20, 30 minutes we need. What if God wanted to speak to us beyond that allotted time? How can we work that in? Even in our work place we tend to react more than we think and plan. Some of the greatest theories and inventions have come when people were just thinking in an extended block of time. Bill Gates takes two weeks off a year to do nothing but think and read. Steve Jobs spent time away as well. Jesus often went away to spend time in prayer.
I think the trade off we are making will have an impact in the future. Time like this does not have an immediate effect, but it will in the future. What will the next generation do to overcome this process? There is not an app for that.
Two-and-half years ago our Children’s Minister and I began to think about making a change from the traditional Vacation Bible School that most churches do to Backyard Kids Clubs. He developed the idea, and did a super job in making it happen. We always had a great VBS. We had big numbers, events, and unbelievable worship. However, most of the children who attended our VBS had already been to other VBS’s and often times knew the music better than we did. However, we saw very few real results and no one ever really joined our church. We wanted a way to reach into the community and meet people we had never met.
This year was incredible! We held the clubs at night. This was intentional so we could meet more parents since they were off work. We had 21 clubs through out the community and we were at three different parks. We had more workers than we have ever had. Many of our seasoned workers continued to help us and we also were able to get workers who normally had to work during the day. One of the best things is that we also had men teaching at every club. In this day and age when men are sometimes missing in families the children were able to see men leading. Our numbers were good as well. We had 20 decisions and the numbers are still growing. This is more than we have ever had. There was a fresh excitement in all of the clubs. We had hosts introducing neighbors to each other and communities began to start forming.
This may not be a ministry for every church, but this is a great change for us. The days are gone when we can sit in our buildings and wait for the people to come to us – we need to go to them.
This past weekend we had a family reunion for the Crawford side of my family. We had done some smaller gatherings at Christmas, but we moved to the park this year, different time, and more people were able to come. Like a lot of families when the great grandparents passed away it was hard to get everyone together. Our great grandfather was a preacher in the Ripley Ms. area and he and his wife had four children. This gave us a time to bring all of the decedents together. Some I had not seen since I was a child.
I think it is funny that the man with mild dyslexia and spelling issues was assigned to string together and hang the banner. We will not discuss the time table on that project. I am not sure how families had reunions before Pinterest, but it did add some flavor. I have discovered that Pinterest is nothing but trouble for me. It is a secret online project list which my wife continually adds too. At the moment there are enough projects for at least four more husbands if each one of us lives to be 85. However, that is a post for another day.
My cousin Jennifer made some fans with pictures of our grandparents ( Pinterest??). The quotes and verses she used were spot on. I have talked a lot about legacy on this blog. This is another example of what it means. The first quote Jennifer used was “We are who we are because they were who they were”. You cannot help but think back to all of the times we saw them and how they modeled their lives. I remember when he would say the blessing at a meal. He would always quote scripture, and not just one or two verses. We are talking chapters at a time. Of course when you are a kid you just want to eat so you can go back out and play. It seemed like it took forever. But that memory stuck. Sometimes it is the little things that have the biggest impact. I am blessed because I could give countless examples.
On the back of the fan was a verse from Psalms 16:6 “ The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good heritage”. I am privileged to have the heritage that I did. He was a preacher, both my grandfather and my father were active deacons, and I am in the Ministry as well. We have had preachers throughout the history in our family, as well as deacons, women’s ministry, writers, and spouses that were in the ministry. Our family has been truly blessed, but it is not something that you can take for granted. My spiritual life and going to heaven is not based on my heritage, but what I personally do and believe. I cannot make spiritual choices for the one’s who come after me either. I can only try to be the example that shows God’s love – not only to them, but to the world as well.
Thanks PawPaw and Grandmother for being the examples you were.
This past weekend we sent our daughter off on a Study Abroad program to a college in an East Asia City. She will be gone for five weeks and will immerse herself in the language. My wife is struggling some, but I am not thinking about it much at all – read sarcasm.
Her initial impressions were one of shock. Granted she had been traveling for about 2.5 days. The city is in an older section of town. The streets are dirty, trash everywhere, holes in the streets and children go to the bathroom on the street as well. It is very hot and there is very little air conditioning. The everything is spicy including the McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
Of course my first reaction was to go get her. I am a “fixer” you know :-) But deep inside me I know this was a good move for her. The lessons she learns here will help her as she transitions into adulthood. Today she is adjusting better and getting into her studies. I knew she would. She always adapts and always overcomes. I am praying that God uses all of the lessons she learns the next five weeks in her life. As a parent you pray a lot for your children anyway, but when they go off for extended periods in places you cannot easily get to you tend to pray extra hard during those times. She will come back more mature and more willing to do other things. I am not sure what God has in store for her when she hits the job world, but I am confident she will be prepared and will be a great employee.
Here’s to 31 days, 0 hours, 41 minutes and 53 seconds going by quickly!! Yes I created a counter.
We have all been there in life. We start an exercise programs dreaming of the day we will have a 6-pack ab, but then three weeks into our new program we find so many excuses of why we cannot get to the gym. Maybe it is our spiritual life. We set goals of memorizing a certain amount of scripture, and extend our quiet time by thirty minutes. We wake up and we have not spent time with God at all that week. You can add in becoming a better person at work, better spouse, better parent and the list just keeps growing.
There is something exciting about starting something new or doing something for the first time, but then over time the newness wears off and we slide back into our old self. We combat this sometimes by staying too busy or continually trying to start new things. We burn ourselves out trying to always do more.
Perhaps the real answer is to let go of several things and decide what few things God really wants you to do. I know what you are thinking: “ I cannot just up and quit a bunch of things; people are depending on me.” or “ You don’t know what my life is like.”. You are right about some of this. People are depending on you and you need to fulfill your obligations. However, many time’s there are things we can give up and maybe the real answer is to not keep adding to the list of responsibilities.
There are seasons in my life when I know I am going to be busy and over committed, but I try to keep those seasons short. I also ask God to give me a passion or a dream that is bigger than me. This gives a real excitement and not one I have to continually add fuel to. I also make sure that I am staying close to God, getting the rest I need, and trying to take care of myself. In this day and age burnout is never too far from any of us.
People often set lofty goals and I am all for goals, but what are some things you need to quit doing to give yourself some margin in your life? Remember to put God first, your spouse second and your family third. Everything else comes after that.
One of my favorite things to write with is a fountain pen. I love technology, but there is something to be said for writing with a pen and especially a fountain pen. I usually write three to four notes a week thanking or encouraging people, I journal, and take notes in meetings. I almost always have one of my fountain pens with me. I have a range of disposable pens that cost about $3.00 to some mid-range pens as well.
Today I want to talk about the fountain pens from Lamy. They have a great selection of “starter” pens. Their pen selection starts at $26 and goes up to $200.00 dollars. I have a Safari and an All Star. Most people either love or hate these pens. So let’s look at them.
Here is a picture of the “All Star” pen that sells for $47.00 dollars. This has a nice light weight aluminum frame and I have a broad nib on it. One of the advantages of the Lamy pens is that their nibs are interchangeable. I also have a fine point nib as well. For most of my correspondence I use the broad nib. I have done a sample with the broad nib and the fine nib so you can see the difference.
The 1.1 broad nib gives the letters just enough of a difference to show a slight thickness when you make certain strokes. You can see with the fine nib there is no variation in the thickness of the letters. The fine nib is really not that fine compared to most pens, and I would order the extra fine if I was ordering again.
How do they perform: I gauge all my nibs by the nib on my Parker 51 that was made in 1948 and writes like a dream. It is the smoothest nib I have ever written with and I have one pen that I sent to a nib master to smooth and tune. The Parker still outperforms it.
This is where most people have issues with the Lamy Safari and All Star. Their complaint is that the nibs are a little scratchy when you are writing with them. There is some truth to this. I feel some of drag when you are writing, but in all fairness I was not expecting perfection from a low end pen. I did not have any skips when writing and the flow of the pen was good.
What I liked: These pens are tanks. You can leave them in your briefcase for two months and then pull the pen out and it will write. With a lot of other fountain pens when you leave them that long without using them you have to prime them again to get them started. I like the fact that you can change nibs without much expense and keep the same pen.
What needs improving: Honestly I think it is a decent pen for the money, but I would like to see the price point a little lower. I think if it sold in the $25-$30 dollar range it would be better. There is not much of anything else you can change.
This year as I do every Mother’s Day I wore a red rose on the lapel of my jacket. I have done this every year since I was just a boy. This rose is sentimental due to the fact that it came from my grandfather’s rose bushes so I am paying tribute to her father as well. I have moved these rose bushes from house to house and they have somehow survived against all odds. I do not know what the exact name of these particular roses are, but they are incredible. The color is a beautiful deep red and the smell is out of this world. When I cut the grass in the backyard I can smell them as I walk by and I always think of my grandfather.
I always get interesting comments when I wear the red rose on Mother’s Day. Due to the time of year some people ask me if I went to prom? Yeah, right! I did not go in high school and do not see it happening at 55 either. Some are a little offended and say something like “ Hey it’s Mother’s Day – it’s not about you. You should take that off.” I have actually had that conversation in some form multiple times. However, the older people enjoy seeing the rose and always comment in a positive way. They like the nod to tradition from a younger generation.
The actual holiday began in 1904 and will mark it’s 100th anniversary this next year, and you have to believe that someone is going to capitalize on that. The wearing of the rose seems to be more of a southern tradition and I could not find out exactly when it started. A red rose signifies that your mother is alive and white that she has passed away. It is just another way to honor your mother on her special day. There was a time when every man wore a rose on that day, but like a lot of traditions it has gradually gone out of style.
When you stop and think about it there are not a lot of traditions left any more. They have gone the way of manners and etiquette. You simply have to sit in a restaurant and watch people to see how much things have changed. Those things make you more the butt of a joke then get you respect. No matter how much you complain and sound like someone’s grandfather I doubt things will change much in that area. As for me, I will continue to wear my rose every year, open the car door for my wife, make sure she is seated in a restaurant, and set the bar high for the young man who marries my daughter. After all that is the way my mother raised me.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
This past Sunday morning I delivered not one of the worst Bible Fellowship lessons, but THE WORST lesson I have ever done. It was so bad that I could not even talk about it when I got home to my wife. I did not connect on any level, my first four questions got zero response, I ended up skipping the whole lesson and went to the closing activity which was a group project. I made the assignments and then went to the restroom to pray. My prayer ended with something like “ God if you get me out of this I will never teach again”. This was a closing that I knew I was not going to do, but those were my feelings. I went back into the room and struggled to finish the lesson and the time eventually ended. For me the problem seemed worse because there were guests who came for the first time. I really did not want to go back to church that night and see people; especially the people who were in my class.
I have never wanted to quit so bad as a teacher before, but part of my job is filling empty teaching positions so I did not want to make my Monday morning worse by quitting on myself. :-) I almost wrote a note to every person in the class apologizing, but I knew that would just make it worse. I went home that afternoon and to console myself I roasted, ground, and brewed a pot of coffee, grabbed my bag of Cheetos, and watched a sci-fi classic. Hey we all morn in our on ways – don’t judge.
We all have one of those days where nothing seems to go right. We blow the presentation at work, drop the ball on following up on a customer, and disappoint those around us. What do we do next? I try not to make any rash decisions that day such as quitting. However, there are lessons to be learned from any failure. I am reminded of the passage in the Bible in the Gospel of Mark 14:66-72 when Peter when he denied Jesus three times. This is one of the most epic failures of all times for those of us who are Christians.
In this passage you see when he realizes what he has done and that he morns. This is a part of the process that we have to go through. He knows what he did and the responsibly is his. We have to acknowledge our mistakes and own them. You cannot escape the personal responsibility. He morned. We see him weeping after he realizes what he has done. There has to be a time of morning. It is ok to feel this way when we fail and if we did not feel this way then we really did not care enough. You cannot stay at this part of the process.
Thankfully the story of Peter does not end there. He does not give up and more importantly God does not give up on him. When the book of Acts opens up we see a whole new Peter. We see a Peter who can withstand persecution and is bold for the Gospel. What made the difference? In Acts you see a man who has developed an incredible prayer life, and his relationship with God became more intimate. You see a man who does not dwell on his past, but focuses on the future. He pours himself into the job that God has called him to do. In short: make sure your relationship with God is where it needs to be, realize the past is the past and you need to focus on the future, focus on the next task that God gives you, and remember everything is about glorifying God and not yourself.