Most of you if you are close to my age have seen the movie Driving Miss Daisy. It’s a story of an elderly Jewish widow living in Atlanta determined to maintain her independence. Upon crashing her car, her son Boolie gets an African-American chauffeur to drive her around. It’s a wonderful story of two individuals growing in their respect for one another.
I tell you this story because a month ago I had the privilege of being my mom’s chauffeur on a scenic car driving experience in Colorado Springs where she now resides. It was a beautiful afternoon so we took the direction of driving into the mountainous section of Colorado Springs where a terrible fire occurred a few years ago and damaged many homes. It was a very destructive fire, but new growth is beginning to emerge slowly.
There is a retreat site known as Gleneagles on the western side of Colorado Springs. We decided to drive thru the beautiful location and were stopped by a security agent. I had been there before as had my mom years ago and we asked him if the longhorn sheep were still grazing in the retreat facilities. He told us that it was too hot and that we wouldn’t see any this time of year but we could take a look.
As we drove through the campground, I looked to my left and to my amazement were longhorn goats. Not sheep but goats. I found out that longhorn sheep have the curved horns that go round and round, but goats have straight horns. I also found out that wild longhorn goats are very rare to see in the mountains. I guess not this day.
It was a splendid day of being with my mom and driving her to places and experiences that both of us will remember for a long time. On this journey through life, experiences with those you love are priceless. I have found that these experiences I can have with my mother create a legacy that we will share together and that I can tell stories to my children for years to come. This experience only happened when we got out of your daily routine.
I was reminded of the title of this JLOG a few weeks ago when Nadine and I went downtown and saw the street in front of the Flagstaff Orpheum Theater blocked off. Up and down this street were classic VW bugs and VW busses.
I remember the year they came out and didn’t give it another thought about buying one. They had no sway of attraction for me and I never gave it a thought of going into the dealership to test drive one. For so many years I took them for granted and had no thoughts of appreciating the technology or the importance they played in the auto industry. It wasn’t until three weeks ago when Nadine and I looked at the VWs’ sitting on the street and were lured into the Orpheum (it was celebrating 99 years of existence). We watched the creation of the VW bus from a platform that was made to move industrial parts in a German factory. I began to appreciate what I had taken for granted forever.
It made me think of what else I often take for granted that is all around me. How about relationships? We think our loved ones will live forever until one of them dies. Regret may come when we think of the things we could have said to them but we just took for granted they would be there.
What about possessions? As long as we have our possessions we don’t think a thing of what would happen if they (our possessions) were to vanish. It’s only when they are gone or go missing that we give those things a second look.
What about our Creator? When things are going well it’s easy to take for granted who God is and what He does for us but what happens when things aren’t going as we planned? What we took for granted-that He would always be there for us-is put into question. It’s not that He left us, but that we left Him and put our focus on other things.
You could fill in the blank of what we have now that could go missing. Child. Wife. Mother. Father. Friend. Job. Employer. Employee. House. Car. Etc. I could go on and on.
On this journey we have the opportunity to erase the “for granted” mentality and replace it with a heart of appreciation for who we are what we have been given. Living as if today were the last day of our life can transform the “for granted” mindset.
I have a problem. It’s an irritation that was built in the early years of life. My mom never threw any food out. Never. Left-overs. Left-overs. Left-overs. She would cook a meal and we would eat the meal with left-overs coming on the next meals until they were gone. She taught me the value of eating all the food that had been prepared, even if it meant that the liver and onions would be eaten the next time that I was hungry.
It caused me to never throw any food out as I grew into an adult and started cooking for myself. I hate to see food thrown out. A problem had arisen in the last few years where most foods have an expiration date. With the mindset I was taught, I have never looked at the dates because I don’t throw out food. Never. Unfortunately I am living with a new generation where those dates are very important and are abided by. It kills me that my kids and my wife look with reverence to those dates and don’t budge on disposing of food that has moved past the expiration date.
The other day, I had the same feeling as I was observing the chick-a-dees feeding at my bird feeder in Flagstaff. These birds are so hungry that oftentimes there are 3-4 at a time on different rungs of the feeder. In their frantic nature to get the seeds, there is spillage on the ground that seem to be wasted.
It was an irritant to me until I looked on the ground yesterday afternoon in the rain and observed the picture below. What seemed to be spillage and wastefulness turned out to be birds on the ground rummaging through the pine needles and leaves searching for the dropped seeds to eat. No spillage. No wasted food. All gone.
This picture reminds me of the passage in Matthew 6:19-34 where Jesus is talking about worrying. He says that we shouldn’t worry and compares our needs and issues with that of the birds. He says, “The birds don’t sow nor reap nor gather into the barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them. . .I was somewhat concerned about the spillage of the seed, and didn’t realize that God was in the process of taking care of the spillage.
How often do we become frustrated over spillage in our lives and never see beyond the spillage to what is going on behind or under the spillage we are focusing on. If only we saw beyond the problems and irritants to see a bigger picture. Maybe our worry and concern would melt away.
On this journey there are going to be times of spillage that can be turned into opportunities for new perspectives if only we open our eyes to those perspectives.
Today in Flagstaff it’s raining.
Last night it was raining. It was raining in Flagstaff yesterday and the day before and the day before that. I ran into the individual that takes care of the golf course up here and he said that he hadn’t watered the course for over three weeks. Rain stops you from what you want to do outside and forces you inside to slow down. Yes. Slow down. Read a book. Make some hot chocolate. Take a nap. Stare out the window and watch the rain. Look at the raindrops fall from the pine needles. Or make a fire and watch the dance of the red, yellow and blue streaks of fire.
Maybe today as I am forced to do you can choose to do. Slow down. This journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Today take some time to enjoy the environment that surrounds you.
I have found over my lifetime fascinating people who have come into my life. I remember having to go to a Christmas party with elderly people (I by the way am one of them now-a senior citizen- but don’t feel like one) that I would never ever come in contact with again. It was an obligation that I had to do and was dreading it. Have you ever had to do one of those things and hated it the whole time. Well it was one of those experiences that we were going to have to endure for 3+ hours.
It was drudgery but I tried to make the best of putting on my happy face and meeting people who I would never see again. I began to ask superficial questions of people and then move on. When it came to the third person, I changed my introductory question, and I asked him if he had ever served in World War II. My dad went onto Normandy beach D-day plus 2 and cleaned up the corpses lying on the beach. I had seen the movie Saving Private Ryan and became interested in World War II history. The man replied that he had so I asked him what was his responsibility. I was shocked at his answer. He said, “I was General George Patton’s personal tank driver.” I had also seen General Patton, and for the next three hours I was engrossed with his stories of his interactions with Patton and the dog. I could have stayed all night grilling him with questions that interested me. Some of the stories he had never shared with anyone and tears came to his eyes. He said that, “No-one had ever asked him these questions and talking about these things brought relief.”
There have been many communicative encounters that have happened to me as I have asked new people I come in contact with to tell me their story. Nadine and I interacted with one such person when Nadine happened to go in for a Doctor consult about some test results. As the prep assistant was taking her EKG and her blood pressure, I asked the assistant how long she had been doing her job and whether she loved her work. She responded by saying, “I am studying to be an English teacher because I love to write stories and create poems.” I asked her if she was publishing them anywhere so that others could read her poems and stories. She said no so I told her about my jlog that I am at this very second writing. She became really interested and got very encouraged to take steps to do the same. The encounter was only a few minutes, but I encouraged her on her path toward becoming a writer and poet that others could be encouraged by.
On this journey, we meet people daily that we could encourage if only we took the time to ask a few questions of their life story. Sometimes we can be the conduit to move them into passionate areas of their lives with just a nudge of affirmation and encouraging words. Be aware today that the person you run into may need that nudge.
I guess I have to define what I mean by distractor. A distractor is a person or thing that consumes our attention and diverts our focus away what is most important to us. I have recently become distracted by the very words that I used to speak to my kids about. It’s wreaking havoc among the young as well as old of this and future generations.
There are all kinds of people and things that can and do get our attention and divert our primary focus. When I was young the primary distractor was the television. It came out in the early 50’s and it was so new that people would stare at the TV for hours on end. It was and can be a distractor to living productive lives, but it’s not the primary distractor of today. People and things aren’t detractors in and of themselves. The distraction comes when we choose to take our attention away from the important things of life and allow people and things around us to grab our focus.
The present day object that causes present day distractions is the cell phone. I am as guilty as the next in looking at Facebook, sports news, my email and texts, playing soduku, etc. The list goes on and on. I was always telling my kids to get off their phones, and I am subtlely, getting more and more distracted by the things that I can learn and play with on my phone. The cell phone is NOT bad in and of itself. The problem comes when I should be focusing on the more important things of life and my mind is diverted over to looking at my phone. There are times that I could be reading uplifting material or writing a letter to my mom and the distractor draws me away from the important.
The reason I am talking about this subject was triggered by a passage I read this morning in Jeremiah. “From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor— their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. . . . We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 3:24-25 Jeremiah doesn’t call them distractors, but “gods” that have consumed our time. He says that the distractors have negatively affected our labor of looking after the flocks and herds, and the “gods” (distractors) have negatively affected our relationships with our sons and daughters.
The only way to get back on track is to admit to the distractors in our lives that have consumed our attention. Sometimes on this journey we take side roads that are dead ends in our lives. Getting out of a dead end is admitting that we have turned our attention away from the main path that leads to health, healing and eternal life. On this journey become aware of distractors that tempt you off the important roads of life.
Have you ever seen one of those traffic cops in a large city directing traffic? They make an art of stopping one lane while encouraging another lane to move forward or turn left. It is mesmerizing to see the beauty at which they direct trucks and cars, let alone getting people from one side of the street to the other. I have seen a couple of traffic cops in England that cause you to stand and stare. Most of the streets in the USA are electronically controlled so the traffic cop is becoming extinct. Chicago is one of those towns where rarely you will find a traffic cop directing traffic.
This last week we happened to be walking to the “L” (it’s really a subway, but in Chicago they don’t call it a subway but the “L” train) to go to a favorite eating establishment of my daughters when we encountered an interesting sight. A woman had turned onto a one way going in the opposite direction of her car. All the cars were stopped and had taken up all the lanes so she was face to face with the cars and nowhere to go. Unfortunately the street behind her had the right of way and were zooming by. She was stuck with nowhere to go. About 25 people at the cross walk were being amused by the whole experience, but I could see that the woman was very distraught and had no way of getting out of the pickle she was in without intervention.
At once, I stepped out in the street of the oncoming traffic (there were only a few cars coming at the time) and put up my left hand to signal the cars to stop. I then wanted to see where the lady wanted to go and she motioned across the street. I used my right hand to motion her to turn her car in the opposite direction and she proceeded to make a half-moon turn of her car and off she went across the intersection to her intended destination. Several of the cars that were stopped were totally amused and a couple of cars honked at me in approval.
The light turned green for the one way traffic and off they went and off we went crossing the street. Everyone at the intersection including the pedestrians and the parked cars waiting have the light turn green were observing the dilemma of the woman, but no one was taking steps to help the person in distress, except for me. It reminds me of times when we are all too preoccupied with getting to our destination that we fail to look up to see those God has put in our path to give a lending hand.
I am reminded of Phillip in Acts who was doing a great ministry for the Lord when God called him into the desert to share the claims of Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) Even though he was preoccupied with a ministry, he was sensitized to God’s call to help someone in the desert. Someone who was turned around and needed help in getting unstuck.
On this journey, keep your head up to see opportunities to help people in need. Who knows if God might call on you to help someone get unstuck from their life’s obstacles.