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Archive for the category “My Learning Experiences”

Can You Top This?

Many years ago I bought the Guinness Book of World Records.   As you probably know it is a book that lists many different categories and the records in each one and the person who made them.  I remember talking to a friend as we thumbed through the book trying to figure out a record we could top and have our names in there.  The most amazing thing about the books contents were the extremes that people would attempt just to get into it.  The records were so out there that they were not worth our time and effort.  How could having my name in that book change my life in a positive way?  The commitment, time, and ability to set one of those records would almost assuredly wreck someone’s life.  Yet there is that desire we have to beat someone’s record.

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We start at a young age with the sports we play.  Until kind of recently the games were always scored and of course winning felt a lot better than losing.  I remember my first year in little league we were losing the game and in the last inning one of the kids on my team struck out.  He started crying and the coach was left to console him and tell him it was alright.  It was one of those moments when the coach was also a counselor, a friend, and a brother all rolled into one.

We learn in life that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but we must keep trying.  We also learn to compete.  Competition is a good thing because it brings out the best in us.  As long as we are willing to take our wins modestly and our losses with respect for the person or team that beats us we have no problem.  Sometimes though the competition and desire to win takes too big of a part in our lives.  That competition can occur even over things that don’t matter.batter swinging

There used to be a show that came on when I was a kid.  It was on channel 50 out of Detroit.  In those days cable TV was just 5 or 6 extra channels, not the variety we get today.  Getting Detroit from my home in Portage was a special thing.  Anyway the show was called “Can You Top This?”  It had comedians come on and tell a joke to a live audience.  They would compete with each other with the gauge being what they called a laugh meter.  The highest score they could get was 100 and after the joke was over the meter was shown on our TV as an arrow and digital numbers going to it’s highest point according to the sound of the audience.  To show you how ridiculous the show was I remember one of the jokes that got 100 points.  It was a joke about a kid that was crying and his father was with him.  “What’s the matter”, his father asked.  The kid blurted between tears that all of the other kids called him fat.  The father comforted the kid telling him he wasn’t fat, he was pleasantly plump.  Now put on your hat and I’ll roll you home.

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Amazingly that joke took the high score for the night.  More amazing is that of all of the jokes they told on that show it was the only one I remember.  As silly as that is there are many people that are playing the can you top this game today.  We used to see it in the old neighborhood saying “Keeping up with the Jones’s.  If Jones got a new mower maybe we would get a better one.  If Jones got a new car maybe we got a newer one.  These kind of competitions were silly and many times had nothing to do with needs.

There is another type of competition that many of us get involved with.  It is the competition to always have the best story or the most exciting experience.  If you tell someone a story they instantly come up with something that tops yours.  It is like they are hardly listening to you as they are thinking about their experience that was truly a bigger thrill or a scarier tale, or a funnier experience.  We should stop that because it makes the other persons experience feel not very important and they may not tell us but it makes them angry.  Everybody wants to feel important and it is important as Christians to make others feel important.  We should listen to their story and laugh, be amazed, or whatever the story calls for.  In other words we don’t always have to win.  Let them win the story game and let them feel  important.  By desiring to listen without competing we silently say that we care and value their experiences!

 

Do You Remember Me?

I had an experience the other day that was kind of embarrassing.  Someone came up to me in a store and asked me if I remembered them.  Actually I did remember the lady.  She worked in the Financial Aid Office years ago.  I also remember running into her years ago in a similar circumstance.  My problem is that I didn’t remember her name.  I did tell her of course I remembered her but I wasn’t honest about her name.  I should have asked her for her name again.  After all it had been years and years since I had seen her.  She mentioned the last time she saw me I was going to buy trophies for my sons basketball team.  I’m thinking that had to be 11 or 12 years ago when I coached them.  It would have been easy to ask for her name and yet I didn’t.  Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that it might be hurtful to her.  Yet when you don’t run into someone for years it’s natural to forget.  It isn’t like you see them every day.   So I skated around the conversation without calling her by her name because I had forgotten.

I had a similar experience yesterday but the shoe was on the other foot.  I walked into a building and there was a guy I hadn’t talked to in years.  His name was George and he was the boyfriend of my boss years ago.  Actually I see him all of the time because he has decided to ride his bike to work instead of driving.  Many times driving to or from work I will encounter him riding down the road.  Of course he hasn’t thought of me in years and naturally when I saw him I said “Hey George!”, and we shook hands.  I noticed he didn’t call me by my name but we exchanged pleasantries.  I told him I see him riding his bike often and he mentioned something about finding that the bike was going against his will too often to Sweet water’s Doughnut Shop lately.  We both got a laugh out of that but at the end of the conversation he said something really softly…I heard it as “take care Terry.”

'This is my wife of 42 years...uh...'  'Lisa.'

I kinda laughed to myself as I continued walking.  I was wondering if I heard him correctly because he said it so low.  I have tried that trick too.  If I wasn’t totally sure I might say the name that I thought it was. The trick is to say it low enough that they would think that I remembered or if it was wrong that maybe they didn’t hear me correctly,.  There was a guy that I was running into every day that worked in Human Resources.  It seemed like every day he was saying “Hi Lewis”, and I was saying “hey how is it going?”, or some other pleasantry.  I had never been introduced to this guy but somehow he knew my name and it was embarrassing.

One day I decided that I have to find out what his name is.  So I searched an old phone book of the people that worked in Human Resources and I thought I had it!  He said “How are you Lewis?”  and I said something like “I’m doing good” and I said a name I forget right now.  The name i thought was right was an unusual name too.  Quickly he corrected me which was embarrassing but the proper thing to do.  “My name is Robert”, he said.  “Oh I’m sorry”, I stated obviously embarrassed.  I think I muddled through the passing conversation using his name Robert.  Quickly I started trying to find a way to remember his name. I used to work with a guy named Robert who was a really good friend.  I made a note that when I saw this guy I would think about my long lost friend.  Now it works like a charm.  It’s either Hi Lewis, Hi Robert or Hi Robert, Hi Lewis!  Now we both feel good when we see each other!

Therein lies the key to people’s hearts.  Everyone wants to feel good.  I was reading a book about Detroit Tiger’s legend Al Kaline.  He was at an autograph show when a fan came up to him asking “Do you remember me?”  Al looked at him and gave him a second glance.  Nothing was coming and he was honest “No I don’t think so, should I?”  The fan explained that it was right after the 1968 World Series that the Tiger’s won!  They were having a victory parade downtown and Al was in one of the cars.  The fan explained that he ran right up to the car and got Al’s attention.  “Hey Al” he said.  He said that Al looked right at him!  Kaline took his eyes off of the ball he was autographing.  “That’s right the parade in 1968”, he said referring to an event 25 years ago.  “You’ve changed a little”, Al offered and they both laughed.  I’m sure that little meeting with Kaline made the guys day.  He probably went home and told his wife and kids that the great Al Kaline remembered him!  The guy next to Al at the table looked at him in amazement of his fabulous memory.  When the fan was safely out of earshot Al quietly told him “of course not.”

There are some people that are brutally honest.  They pride themselves in saying things and letting the chips fall where they may.  Maybe there is a time and place for this if it is in the right spirit and meant to be helpful, but too often their words only hurt the other person.  Too often the brutally honest ones are just brutal.  “I tell it like it is”, they may say proudly.  Yet with their words they sometimes cut a person far deeper than if they were stabbing them with a knife.  That hurt can bring pain to others too.  The phrase “Hurt people hurt people” is very true and it can be passed on or stopped by our actions.  Make people feel good that they saw you.  Leave them in a better mood than before your encounter.  This is what happy people do and we should be happy with the Spirit of God within us!

Years ago Ernie Banks was a big star for the Chicago Cubs.  One day Ernie was at a function and one of the promoters was telling him about his 8 year old son.  His wife would be bringing him over in a few minutes.  “It will be thrilling for him to meet you because  you are his favorite player!”  The promoter told Ernie that he took his son  to a Cubs doubleheader last year on the 4th of July. He mentioned that they got good seats right to the side of the Cub’s dugout and he bought his son a Cub’s hat that he wore the whole day!  “What a great time they had together that day” He recalled, “and how thrilled his son was when Ernie hit a home run!”

As promised the promoters wife brought his son over to where he was.  “I’d like you to meet Ernie Banks”, his father told his son.  Ernie looked up from what he was doing and shook hands with the youngster.  As he was shaking his hand Ernie took a second look.  “Hey, haven’t I seen you before?”, he stated in surprised elation.  “Weren’t you at a game last year?”  The kid mentioned that he was.  “Wasn’t it the 4th of July doubleheader?” “Weren’t you sitting right by the dugout with a Cubs hat on?”  The questions were coming faster than the kid could answer but he was thrilled that the great Ernie Banks recognized him!  “When I saw you do you know what I thought?”  “I thought that kid is a great Cubs fan and I’m going  to try to hit a home run just for him!”

A Good Light

Flip Wilson the great comedian of years gone by had a saying he used to say while dressed up as Geraldine which was very funny.  “What you see is what you get”, he would proclaim in a high pitched voice.  It was a statement that all of us can attest to because we all have our faults.  It’s foolish to expect perfect people and it is foolish to think and act like we are perfect.  Yet in our day and age it is sometimes important to hide our flaws.  It might be in the makeup we wear or the hair piece that hides the thinning.  It might be in the clothes that we wear that help hide our extra poundage.  These things can help us look our best and better than what we really are.  There is nothing wrong with trying to look our best.  In fact God is looking at us through a good light.

Have you ever heard it said about a picture “That picture doesn’t reflect you in a good light?”  How many times in years past have we had our picture made for a drivers license and totally cannot stand the picture?  We are looking weird or our hair isn’t just right or our eyes are closed, or we are not looking at the camera.  These pictures do not show us at our best.  That is the beauty of something like Facebook.  We can post only our favorite photos that put us in the best light and can discard the ones that we don’t like.  In that way we put the best light on ourselves and are happy with the results.

One of my work insurance benefits is having my eyes checked every two years.  The thing I don’t like about the examination is when they dilate my eyes.  The process is quite painless as they take a solution and put it in my eyes.  After a little while they are able to see the back my eyes to make sure nothing weird is going on.  The problem I have is the bright light after the examination.  They give me these sun glasses to wear because my eyes are extra sensitive to the light.  Without the glasses on it would be so bright that it wold actually be painful.  It would feel like the equivalent of looking directly into the sun.

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When I was a kid my dad sometimes took me outside to help him as he worked on the car.  He would give me the flashlight to hold on the part that he was working on from above the engine as he was under the car.  After awhile with my mind drifting I invariably would move the light where it wasn’t shining on the place he needed it.  Of course my attention was quickly pulled back to the job at hand as dad hollered and I realized that my light was shining on everything but what it was supposed to.

In Matthew 5 verses 14-16 Jesus said

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

It is very important to shine our light but we must realize that we can shine it the wrong way.  We can shine it on things that we are not supposed to like I did with the car.  We can shine it in such a way that it is painful to someone else as the bright light is as painful as looking into the sun.  We can put a bad light on people that emphasizes seeing them at their worst.  These are not God’s intentions of how we are to use our light he has given us.  It is not God’s will for us to expose someone in our light in such a way that we put them in a bad light even if it is true.

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In John chapter 8 Jesus was teaching in the temple when the scribes and pharisees brought a woman to him that they said was caught in the very act of adultery.  They wanted to know if they should stone her like it is required in the Law of Moses?  Actually they were trying to trap Jesus because however he answered they would have something against him.  However Jesus told them something they didn’t expect.  He told them to go ahead and stone her but only the one without sin among them could cast the first stone.  Slowly they dropped their stones and left.  When they had all left Jesus turned to the woman and asked Where are your accusers?  Has no one condemned you?  She answered “no one Lord”, and he said neither do I.  Go and sin no more.  Jesus chose to not shine a light on all of her sins.  Instead he chose to shine his light on the future instead of the past.  He refused to put her in a bad light even though the charges against her were true.

The will of God in us is to shine our light for all to see.  We are to look for good in people and not expose things that would put them in a bad light.  That is called forgiveness and love.  We cannot love others when we are talking bad about them.  Love is slow to anger and quick to forgive.  When you are tempted to say something bad about someone think about this question.  Am I a perfect person?  Would I like it if someone revealed something about me that put me in a bad light?

When shining your light that God has given you shine it directly on Jesus for he is our example.  You can do this by following his example of not blaming or condemning people for their faults.  Remember that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Remember that if we cannot forgive others God cannot forgive us.  Make it a way of life to say nice things about others and overlook their faults.  Do unto others as you would have them do onto you, not as they do unto you.  In that way God will be pleased with the good light you are shining!

 

 

 

Restoration

I was sitting in my car at a stop light.  Pulling up to the light in heavy traffic I saw out of the corner of my eye an SUV pulling into a driveway on the other side of the street.  Frantically it was going back and forth trying to get traction without success.  With the conditions as they were I could tell that the SUV was accelerating much too fast for the conditions.  It was an awful day out.  All of the other schools were closed that day but our University remained open.  Although it took me twice as long to get to work I had made it.  Now I was on my way home and the conditions were icy and treacherous.  Because the conditions were so bad everyone was driving extremely slow.  This caused the traffic to crawl and jam as I slowly pulled up to the light.  The SUV on my side was still trying to turn itself around and the driver was getting frustrated.  It was then that I saw the SUV backing up directly at me.  Suddenly I realized  it was dangerously close and I pressed on my horn but it didn’t do any good.  There was a crashing sound and I knew I had been hit.  I struggled out of the car against the elements.  The lady got out of her SUV and met me where the damage was.  Strangely though when I tried to locate the damage that she had caused I couldn’t find it.  The traffic was bumper to bumper and the light had turned and people were ready to go.  The lady was anxious for me to let the incident go since no damage apparently was caused.  Instead of exchanging insurance policies and calling the police I decided that miraculously my car had not been damaged and called off the search.  When I got home a few minutes later I inspected the side of my car once again and discovered a huge dent by the fuel tank.  Apparently since she was driving an SUV her bumper hit me much higher than where I was looking.  I became upset with her for driving so recklessly in awful conditions.  I was also upset with myself for not discovering the damages and letting her go without consequences.  Most of all I was upset that my car was damaged.

That incident happened a couple of winters ago and the car has been very driveable.  However every time that I filled up the gas tank I would see that dent and became upset with that lady.  It was because of her that the dent was there and seeing it constantly reminded me of that day and her hurry for me to set her free.  Although I wanted to get the car fixed I couldn’t justify spending hundreds to restore an old car.  One day a few months ago my son came over for lunch.  He was parked properly on the other side at the foot of our driveway.  As I was leaving to come back to work I was in a hurry and forgot he was back there.  When I turned my wheel to enter our street I heard a clunk.  My front side had bashed into his car.  Feeling sick to my stomach I got out to assess the damages.  Fortunately there were no damages to his car but mine had a big dent in the front.  It was then I decided that I was going to have the car restored.

It was like that old joke about the guy who dropped fifty cents in the toilet.  His friend noticed that he was purposely dropping quarters into the same toilet.  “What are you doing?” the friend questioned.  It seems the man had debated if it was worth it putting his hand in there for fifty cents.  He explained to his friend “for fifty cents no, but for two dollars yes!”  Now that I had two unsightly dents in the car I was ready to invest.  However, I wanted someone to work with me.  I called several body shops and explained my situation on their answering machines.  Finally I got someone on the line with my last call.  “I have an older car”, I explained “and I need someone to work with me.”  “Instead of all new replacement parts I was hoping you could pull the dents out.”  “I’m not carrying collision insurance on the car and it is all out of pocket.”  Surprisingly he was very cooperative and had me bring the car right over.  His workload wasn’t very heavy and for that I was extremely grateful!

In the Bible there are stories about restoration.  These are not car restorations however.  They are restorations of relationships.  A couple come to mind.  One which we all have heard is about the prodigal son who took all of his inheritance and blew it on wild living.  His father was quick to forgive and forget when the son humbly made his trip back home.  Another one was the relationship that Jesus had with Peter his disciple.  Peter was admonished by Jesus because he was always saying things that came to his mind without thought.  When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to the cross Peter took him aside.  “Never Lord, This will never happen to you.”  In Matthew 16:23 it states that Jesus turned to Peter and said “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  As Jesus was going to the cross Peter was questioned three times about their relationship.  Each time he denied knowing him.  The third time he reacted violently swearing loudly and claiming “I do not even know the man.”  In Matthew 26:33 Peter said “though all men will be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.”  In verse 34 Jesus answers him saying “that this night before the cock crows you will deny me thrice.”  After Peter’s third denial the rooster crowed fulfilling the prophesy.

After Jesus was crucified Peter had given up the cause.  Jesus has died and it is all over for us was his thinking.  He encouraged the other disciples to go back to where it began and what they made a living doing.  They went back to being fishermen and were on a boat with their nets in the water.  Through the whole night they caught nothing and were very discouraged.  Suddenly they saw a man on the shore and he called out “cast your nets on the other side.”  Reluctantly they did and the net gathered so many fish that it broke.  Realizing the miracle they also realized that the man was Jesus and they were ecstatic.  Jesus didn’t lecture them about what they were doing out there or why they had given up.  He was willing to restore the relationship despite their lack of faith.  Peter especially was grateful because much like how the disciples mended their fishing  net Jesus had mended his relationship with him!

Slowly the figures were added.  As I sat in the office the calculator was working away.  I’m sure that with each cost the owner was remembering my words and discounting each item.  At the end I was amazed at how little the cost was.  Having received estimates for the original dent I knew what the ball park figure was.  Yet he was offering to do the job for two dents at less than the others did for one!  He had mercy on my situation much like how God has mercy on our lives.

Perhaps you have an old friend that you don’t talk to anymore.  Maybe something happened that broke your trust.  Maybe there is hurt whenever you see them or think about what they did.  This is not how God wants us to be.  He wants to restore our friendships.  In order to do this be the one who makes the first move.  Be the one who asks for forgiveness.  You will be surprised how the ice will melt and how you will begin to feel happy again.  Happy that there are no grudges only love.  Happy that you have put hate behind you and grateful that God has restored your joy!

When I’m fueling up my car now I don’t see the dent anymore.  I don’t even think about that lady or feel the anger that I felt.  I only see the car all repaired and looking great.  Usually I forget that it was ever damaged.  That is how God see’s us when we ask for forgiveness.  He forgets all of our past sins.  He restores our relationship with him much like my car was restored.

 

Hurting For A Laugh

Everyone who knows me knows that I like to laugh.  It helps me get through life.  A lot of times I will laugh at myself for something I did.  Sometimes I might even tell a close friend about the event and how embarrassing it would have been if someone had seen it.  When I do, I know this friend will keep my little secret to themselves.  Friends like this are so valued because they could easily break your trust but they don’t.   I am so thankful that some things that have happened to me have not been caught on film.  With the ability of people to make videos from their phones embarrassing moments are going viral every day on the computer.  Though it is funny it can be very embarrassing and hurtful to the victim.

I was sitting in this meeting at work two winters ago.  There was a big snow storm that we had just got back from.  You see it was so bad that they closed the university for a day or two.  The leader told us of extra efforts on the part of one of our teammates.  He had taken it upon himself to get on the treacherous road and slowly drive to work.  He knew he had to keep the computers going. His efforts no doubt should have been greatly appreciated.  As he was trying to get up the hill to a parking lot that wasn’t plowed he got stuck.  He ended up having to get out of his car and push.  Unfortunately while he was out there pushing his pants split.  The leader was telling us about this incident.  He mentioned how when he heard about this unfortunate event from the victim he couldn’t stop laughing.  People all around were getting a good laugh and I have to admit I laughed a little too.  The leader had a little ceremony where new pants and a shovel were presented to our teammate.  As everyone laughed I happened to look at this guy who so bravely sacrificed his time for the good of all of us.  Instead of laughing his face was beet red.  Suddenly the smile left my face.  I remembered a similar moment in my life when I was a happy teenager.

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I was in a church youth group and we were sitting around on the floor while the leader was talking.  All of the sudden out of the blue he looked at my head and made a proclamation.  “Lewie’s going bald”, he said,  “I never noticed that before.”  I don’t remember if there was much laughter there that night.  It wasn’t a joke it was an observation he was making.  However to a 17 year old kid who was very self conscious and had a whole head of hair his comment was devastating.  It was embarrassing to me to have someone say that around the girls and guys in the group.  My mom noticed I was down and she asked me what was wrong.  I mentioned what the leader had told me and the group and bless her soul she called him.  They talked for a little while and she told him that I was feeling bad because of what he said.  I’m not sure where the conversation went from there but he found out that what he said bothered me.

The very next week we were all sitting on the floor again at our youth meeting when the first thing out of the leaders mouth was that my mom had called him.  He mentioned that it bothered me that he said I was going bald and the whole group laughed.  To me it sounded like an uproar and I was totally devastated.

I don’t know why this was brought up again.  I also can’t explain why the leader in the other situation thought it was necessary to honor the victim with gifts.  However if you pressed me for an answer here is what I think.  I think that when people have leadership roles too often they want to be funny.  While laughing can be a good thing in both of those examples there was one person who wasn’t laughing and that was the person who was the butt of the joke.  I was reading a comment yesterday that said “How can all of us be happy when one of us isn’t?”  I have never heard it put like that before and makes for an interesting question to the stories.

Too often when we are in a group situation and the leader does something that embarrasses someone else for a laugh we don’t say anything.  We don’t want to get fired from a job or become a so called trouble maker in the group.  However I can tell you that the embarrassment is real and it doesn’t have to occur.  To the leaders of groups be careful.  If you are making a joke make sure someone isn’t getting thrown under the bus for the laugh.  If you feel you have to give a gift to the person who had an unfortunate situation happen you might think about doing it in private.  If you were really concerned about helping someone that would be sufficient.

It’s strange but I haven’t thought about that hurtful youth group moment for years.  Somewhere over time I have forgiven.  The Bible states that when God forgives he forgets.  That is one thing that we can do that God can’t.  We can still remember things that we have forgiven people for.  We can still remember the hurt we felt and the words that were said.  Maybe that hurt can be remembered so we can learn from it and not follow those actions when we become leaders.

I admit that now I am going bald.  I also will tell you that I am almost 60 years old.  Today I am much more mature and I could take a comment like that better although I still wouldn’t like it.  Leaders, if you must make a joke that will throw someone under the bus throw yourself under there.  Somehow I’ll bet there will be a lot less hurtful words that cheaply get a laugh that will soon be forgotten, except by the people that get injured.

 

 

 

It’s A Puzzle

It’s 6 am on a workday and I was done sleeping.  Usually I don’t get up until 7 but something was on my mind.  It was the moon shape of Babe Ruth’s head.  You might think that is a crazy thought but it was part of the puzzle I was helping to put together.  Normally I leave the puzzles to my wife.  Every now and then I will attempt one and become frustrated when I sit there for 5 minutes without successfully putting together a piece or two.  This puzzle was different.  It was about sports legends from museums in North America.  In other words it was a subject I knew plenty about!

This puzzle was 1000 pieces and like all of them there was a picture of the finished product on the box.  Coming home from work on my lunch hour I found myself sitting down at the table and attempting to put a few more pieces together.  The same thing happened after work.  Instead of becoming frustrated because of my lack of success I became addicted because of my surprising proficiency!  I found that it was relaxing as it took my mind off of everyday things and put it on the task at hand.

1948 leaf BABE RUTH #3 PSA GOOD 2

As I was laying there before I got up I had this thought.  Why don’t I work on the Babe Ruth part of the puzzle?  After all there was nobody who had a head exactly like the Babe.  I once heard someone describe it as looking like a happy catchers mitt.  On the box picture he was looking up following the journey of the ball he had just crushed.  Who would have thought that years ago this would be the man who saved baseball?  At the age of 7 his parents placed him in a home for incorrigible boys.  They decided that his actions were so bad they couldn’t raise him.  It was called St. Mary’s Industrial School and was a training school for orphans, incorrigibles, delinquents, boys whose homes had been broken by divorce, runaways picked up on the streets of Baltimore and children of poor parents who had no other means of providing an education for them. He was being trained to be a shirt maker and tailor.

From the day he was admitted at age 7 until the age of 19 he was in and out of that school.  It looked like his future would be as a tailor until fate took over.  Little did he know that the puzzle to his life was coming together.  You see George (his real name), had a proficiency for hitting a baseball.  It was discovered and nurtured by a big strapping administrator of the school named Brother Mathias.  Brother Mathias was 6 feet 6 inches tall and took a liking to George.  The school had different teams and at a young age George was allowed to play on the best one.  He was a pitcher back then and became known as the best pitcher in the school!  Jack Dunn the owner of the Baltimore Orioles who at that time was a minor league team came to the school and signed George to a contract.  He had to agree to be his legal guardian to make the deal happen which he did.  Teammates would see Dunn coming with George by his side and would say “here comes Dunn with his babe!”.  The nickname stuck and he became Babe Ruth.  After 5 years of pitching and getting traded to the major league Boston Red Sox it was decided that Babe was too good of a hitter to only play one in every 4 or 5 games.  They made him into an outfielder so he could play every day.  The Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed money to fund one of his plays (he also owned a local theater) so he sold Babe to the New York Yankees for $125,000.

Baseball had a very serious problem when Babe was traded to the Yankees.  In the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds it was discovered that the White Sox had sold out to gamblers.  Eight of them agreed to lose the series for an agreed upon sum of money.  When this unthinkable deed was brought to light baseball was looked on as crooked.  One of the big reasons people became interested again was the many home runs that Babe Ruth was hitting.  His go for broke swings started a new trend in the game.  Instead of bunting and playing base to base players started playing for the big inning and swinging for the fences.  Baseball became respectable again and a big reason was Babe Ruth!

In the pile of puzzle pieces I saw his moon face.  It couldn’t have been none other.  Suddenly I was finding his gray uniform in the mix of pieces.  I found I enjoyed working on a single subject and working with colors.  My son is really good with shapes.  He amazes me how he can sit down and put 4 or 5 pieces in based on their shapes.  He has a knack for seeing a shape and matching it quickly within the pile of puzzle pieces.  I do not have that talent.  My best attribute for putting this particular puzzle together was my knowledge of the subject.  Some of the outlying pieces had little facts about the athletes.  For instance Jessie Owens 1936 Olympics, or Mark Spitz 7 Gold Medals, or Ted Williams a .406 average.  All of these little facts helped me know the area that the pieces went in without really being very good at putting puzzles together in general.

After working on the puzzle for awhile I’d find that I would go into a slump.  In other words I’d sit there getting frustrated because the pieces were not going together.  It was at those times I would get up and get my mind on something else.  Sometimes we can dwell on the situation so much that we get bogged down.  It is good in those situations to just step away.  That happens at work sometimes at the end of the day.  There are times when by 5 pm  things seem like a scrambled mess, but a good nights sleep and a new day brings clarity to the situation.

After I walked away from the puzzle my wife kept working.  A few minutes later she called for me to finish the puzzle.  She had graciously left 7 or 8 pieces out for me to complete the puzzle.  It took a little trial and error but I was able to fit the pieces together and all of them were there.

Now I could see the completed puzzle picture.  There were many figures representing numerous stories similar to the Babe Ruth story I mentioned.  From Joe Louis, the great boxer to Red Grange, the galloping ghost of football, to John Wooden, who guided UCLA to 10 NCAA basketball titles, and so many other incredible stories!   The fun part about piecing this puzzle together for me was the memories each little figure represented.  I remember so many of these people and observed many as they were accomplishing the feats that would make them famous.

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God has a puzzle of all of our lives too.  It isn’t a puzzle that he is figuring out however.  It is a faith puzzle that comes together when we trust him with it.  It’s easy to get frustrated when our pieces don’t seem to fit together.  Sometimes we try to force pieces that don’t fit only to discover that this conduct directly affects other pieces.  While things don’t always go together like we think they should, have faith that all of the puzzle is there!  Instead of being frustrated we need to just step away and leave it with God.  When our puzzle is all together we will marvel at how all of the pieces fit perfectly and how each trial on the trail helped to make our puzzle complete!

 

The Bowling Show

Have you ever done something silly or out of the ordinary because you were alone? Something that if you did it in front of others would be totally embarrassing? That definitely was what I was doing at 16 years old. I was in a school bowling league on Monday nights and my form was on my mind. My family was in other rooms that night and I had the living room to myself. Over and over I practiced my bowling approach. Usually using 5 steps I tried to emulate some of the great bowlers I had seen on TV. One bowler that I remember trying to copy was named Bob Strampe.

Bob Strampe, Deliberately good!

Bob had a very deliberate form as each step he took was slow and methodical. He walked straight ahead with one foot going precisely in front of the other much like he was walking a tight rope. Dick Weber was my favorite bowler. He used the 5 step approach too but his steps were much more direct and with speed. The thing about Weber that the commentators always mentioned was his level of concentration. You could see it as you watched him bowl and his eyes were just staring ahead as to where he wanted to roll the ball. You almost felt that if an explosion had taken place in the building Weber wouldn’t have noticed. Weber also had a different way of following through as his arm flung more to the side after his delivery. Ray Bluth had a very odd stance as he started to bowl. Ray had his arm flexed much like someone flexing their muscle only with their arm in front instead of on the side. Cupped in that flexed arm rested his ball. His wrist which was bent backwards in his stance would slowly become uncoiled as would his arm as he approached the line. Some bowlers started with their balls almost down by their knees such as Dave Soutar and Carmen Salvino while Fred Lenning had his ball right at waist level. Then there was Harry (the tiger) Smith who rocked his ball up and down before he started his approach.

Dick Weber

Dick Weber

Ray Bluth                         Ray Bluth before his unorthodox stance!

After I had emulated the styles of these highly successful pro bowlers over and over I noticed some movement outside the window. It was an extremely dark night and the curtain was opened and the light in our house must have seemed extremely bright. Kneeling outside with a clear view were a bunch of neighborhood kids. As they realized that I finally had seen them they all started howling in laughter. Among all the laughter I heard the loud laughter of Lloyd, an outgoing kid who was always looking for a good laugh anyway and found it at my expense. I’m sure he discovered my show and had encouraged everyone to take a look. In my embarrassment and with my heart picking up a hundred beats I quickly closed the curtains. My comedy show was officially over and I dreaded the ridicule that would follow.

One time when I was 9 or 10 a bunch us decided we wanted to go bowling. Airway Lanes was maybe a half a mile from our house and we set out to get there. To avoid walking along the main road our path was to cut through fields, back yards, and a place we called the sand hills. The sand hills was a dumping ground surrounded by apple and pear trees. Anyway this was in the middle of winter and there was snow everywhere. On a recent trip to Alabama my grandpa had given me a dollar and my uncle Billy had given me five. I had never had so much money before! I remember going bowling with the gang before and everyone bringing a dollar. One dollar could buy two games at forty cents each and rent shoes for twenty cents. I was so excited to go bowling I took all six dollars with me. What I would do with all that money I didn’t know. It was in a tiny little fold over brown holder with plastic inside and I had it in my coat pocket with my hand securely on it. Yes, I was afraid that my money would somehow fall out of my pocket and I thought that keeping my hand on it would keep it secure. Walking swiftly with the gang the bowling building was in sight. Suddenly unexpectedly I slipped and fell down. My hand must have automatically came out of my pocket to stop my fall. I was OK but when I put my hand back into my coat pocket I discovered that my little money holder was gone. I called a halt to the gang and asked them to help me look. I knew exactly when it happened yet the container was nowhere to be found. Obviously it fell in the snow and wasn’t easily spotted. The gang looked with me for five or ten minutes and someone very easily could have found and kept it. I ended up turning around and walking home. With no money I couldn’t go bowling and I didn’t feel like it anyway. I was heartbroken as I told my sad tale when I arrived. My mom sent my sister to help me look immediately but once again we came up empty handed.

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My dad used to take me bowling on my birthday when I was young. We went to the same Airway Lanes that I mentioned earlier. It was the best bowling establishment in town at that time with as they described “40 beautiful lanes.” My dad enjoyed bowling with me and I enjoyed the time with him. He worked a lot and we didn’t always have time together, but my birthday was always a special day! We would get a house ball that they had on racks on the walls. The balls that fit my fingers were the light balls that had a speckled design on them. I think I bowled with a ten pound ball. I never had a lesson in bowling. I remember being a two handed bowler back then. I guess I felt like I could get more behind it. We always bowled three games except for one year. I think we were both doing badly and dad thought two games was enough. I remember being hugely disappointed that day thinking that it was my fault we didn’t bowl the third game like we always did.

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If you want to see how everyone is different all you have to do is go to a bowling alley and watch bowling. You will find that everyone bowls differently. There are people that walk up to the line slowly and people who almost run. You will see people that roll the ball slow and others who whip it. You will see wild hook balls and others straight as an arrow. Still other people throw what they call a backup ball that curves the opposite way. You will see people who literally throw the ball and it makes a thud to others who roll it smoothly. Tall, short, and in between people as well as skinny and heavy people are all represented in bowling. There are serious bowlers who throw tantrums after misses and there are the happy go lucky types that laugh their way through. There are people who drink and bowl and others who goof around. You could easily compare a bowlers style with how people live their lives.

Airway Lanes today

Airway Lanes today

I don’t bowl much these days but we did bowl the other day at Airway. There was Gary my retired friend, myself, and my son. That in itself covers a lot of age difference. Bowling is a great game that way as all ages can participate! Gary is such a great guy that whatever we are doing he adds his ability to make us laugh. He doesn’t take himself seriously in his scores. In fact he usually is critical of himself. If he throws a strike he comes back saying he was lucky. It’s funny how my son and I will always build that strike up while he is tearing it down. Gary is an encourager and selflessly tries to make others better. He could bowl or golf terribly but if someone else did well it is all worthwhile to him.

I actually made the 5-7 split the other day. Although it isn’t a big split it is big enough. You have to hit the five pin thinly on it’s side and slide it over across the alley where it hits the seven. Making a shot like that reminds me of the greatest trick shot bowler I have ever seen. His name was Andy Varipapa and I only saw him on TV but he did tricks I couldn’t believe. He rolled two balls at the same time and they crossed paths as each one hit a pin in the dreaded 7-10 split. He also could jump alleys with his ball and roll a strike on another alley. This video is amazing!

Bowling has changed through the years. I remember when it was a big deal for someone to roll a perfect 300 game. Now it seems there is a long list in the paper. I have never seen the pins explode like they do now. With modern technology and the way they oil the lanes high scores are encouraged. It seems that the higher the scores the more people like to bowl. The more they like to bowl the more they will come and the more profit for the bowling establishment. Even though the bowlers I used to emulate had lower averages than they do today I think they were just as good and probably better. They had to concentrate on the fundamentals of consistency and spare shooting too! Speaking of a consistent bowler I never saw one that compared to Earl Anthony. He had a crew cut and glasses and didn’t look athletic at all but oh how he consistently rolled that ball from the left side. He was so smooth and could throw the same ball over and over. Changes in the equipment and lane conditions should not dim his bowling greatness. Airway Lanes has changed over the years too. Today it also has other family things you can do like Go Karts, Miniature Golf, and Arcade Games. It has far more to offer than just the bowling alleys like back in the day.  One time I noticed someone walking into Airway with his golf clubs.  I learned that they also had a golf simulator game in the bowling building.  Talk about many interests under one roof!

Earl Anthony…So consistent!

There are certain things that I have learned through my bowling experiences that are life experiences too. I have learned that everyone is different. Like bowling styles God made us all unique. In our uniqueness he has a big picture in mind. It is a picture of using all of our vast differences for the good of the whole! My bowling experiences have taught me to be happy with time spent together and not to get bogged down in expectations. I learned not to take false blame for everything that happens and just to enjoy the moment. I have learned through bowling and watching bowling that being consistent like Earl Anthony should be my goal, not only in bowling but life. When people see me I want them to discover that I am the same in good times and bad. Losing my money on my trip to the bowling alley taught me to not cling to worldly things that will soon pass. The reason that I lost the money was because I was so concerned that I would.  Like Jesus said in Matthew 16:25. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” It brings to mind Matthew 6:20 where Jesus tells us to store up our treasures not on this earth but in heaven where they are safe. Lastly Andy Varipapa taught me that the worst situations can be overcome by tricks and know how! He enjoyed being on stage and showing off his magnificent talents! He enjoyed being the center of attention! Perhaps with this know how I could turn my most embarrassing experience to my advantage the next time I’m in a similar spot! When on stage as my audience is howling in laughter and the show ends I should always remember to take a bow or two before the curtain closes!

Fighting For Respect

Lloyd and I were getting off of the bus coming back from school.  Lloyd was a big kid and I was little for my age.  He was a year older than me and we were maybe fifteen and sixteen.  Just as we were walking past the building that housed Reed’s Party store Mike jumped out from his hiding place behind the building right in front of Lloyd.  This was a surprise tactic that Mike liked to use to catch his adversary off guard.  Mike was the brother of Randy who was younger than us and was always mouthing off.  Deep down Randy was a good kid but he had a temper and he was always irritating people with his mouth.  One day he got upset with Lloyd.  It was at Richmond’s Field after or during a game.  I don’t remember the particulars but Randy got physical with Lloyd.  Lloyd easily tossed Randy to the ground. He might have had to punch him to keep him at bay. Randy in his rage left with foul words  as he stormed toward home.  Randy used all of the swear words I had ever heard and then some.  Lastly was his threat of telling his big brother.  This had happened a few days before and the memory had faded from our minds until Mike made his unexpected appearance from behind the building. Mike had vengeance on his mind and explained quickly and with a voice of hate why he was going to administer the beating that followed.  “You picked on my little brother”, came the angry words out of his mouth.  Before Lloyd could say anything the punches began.  Mike was a skinny kid maybe 5’7 and 120 pounds but he had a reputation throughout the neighborhood.  Everyone was afraid of Mike because he fought like a caged Tiger.  He was fast with his fists and feet and he fought with a mean animal like disposition.  Lloyd’s books flew to the ground immediately as Mike’s punches quickly dislodged them.  I’m standing a few feet from the action watching my friend get pummeled, scared and not saying a word.  Although I had seen Lloyd win fights many times (mostly with his brothers) and although Lloyd outweighed Mike by more than 80 pounds he stood there and took his beating without fighting back.  I guess it was a fear that if he did fight back the beating would be worse.  Mike was in a whirlwind as his fists were flying and connecting.  Then for good measure he swung his leg and swiftly kicked his foot into Lloyd’s groin.  With that Lloyd fell to the ground at which time Mike kicked him a couple of more times while he was down and told him never to pick on Randy again.  Mike walked away and Lloyd got up very slowly picking up his books which had scattered in the parking lot.

There was a price to pay for scuffling with Randy and Lloyd had paid the ultimate price.  The same thing happened to my friend Austin one day.  It was the exact same circumstance.  Once again a few days before Austin and Randy got into an altercation.  Once again Randy told his big brother Mike and once again Mike jumped out from behind the building.  It was almost a replay of what happened earlier with Lloyd as Mike again administered the beating.  The problem as Mike saw it was that both Lloyd and Austin were much bigger than Randy.  No matter how much Randy instigated the trouble Mike looked at it like the families honor was at stake.  Randy was not getting any respect and Mike took it upon himself to give out a lesson.

Nobody had seen me fight before.  That’s because I had not been in a fight since I was 9 or 10 years old.  At that time I was very interested in boxing and wondered if I was any good at it.  There were a couple of times that I orchestrated “fights.”  They were not vengeance fights, more like boxing matches without gloves.  There wasn’t a fear of getting hurt, only a curiosity of how well I could perform.  I remember a kid named Kenny who outweighed me by 50 pounds.  That didn’t matter to me as I thought I could out box him.  We weren’t mad at each other and maybe he thought he could use the fighting practice too.  We met after school one night in a field around the block.  I circled Kenny using my speed and boxing punches I had seen professionals use.  It was a very civilized fight and I was having the better of it.  After about 20 minutes Kenny got close enough to wrestle me to the ground.  Since Kenny was so much heavier this was not a position I wanted to be in.  My idea was a straight boxing match but Kenny had other ideas.  With his weight keeping me down in a helpless position he was about to administer my beating.  Just then we heard a voice from the dad of one of my friends who lived across the street.  Apparently Mr. Evans either heard the commotion or just happened to be going for a walk.  “Break it up you two, you are going to hurt each other.”, he yelled as he pulled Kenny off of me.   That hastily ended our encounter and we never fought again.

Kids fighting

Because I was small and a couple of kids on the bus were dying for respect themselves, they started picking on me.  I knew both of them well and at different times I considered both of them friends.  Separately they seemed alright, but around each other they could be downright mean.  Their names were Brian and Terry and they would deliberately sit behind me on the bus.  Without warning suddenly I’d feel a sharp hit to the back of my head.  Turning to see who it was they would sit there like nothing happened.  Every day this problem existed.  It got to a point that I dreaded riding the bus because of the abuse I was taking.  When I voiced my displeasure at home one time my sister must have taken notes.  One day coming home from school the same thing happened.  As we were about ready to get off of the bus my sister hauled off and slapped Brian across the face.  I didn’t see this since it happened behind me.  However it put Brian in a strange position that he didn’t know how to handle.  He couldn’t try to hit a girl because nobody could respect that.  In the end I heard him sputtering to me about how I had to have my sister fight my fights for me.

Actually for the most part I considered Randy a friend.  Although he was younger he was always active in the neighborhood games and I remember many times playing wiffleball with him in his back yard.  One day as friends we were wrestling in my front yard.  Although I was a little taller Randy probably outweighed me.  It was  just something to do as we both loved competition.  I didn’t consider it a fight just a friendly wrestling match.  Randy apparently had other ideas.  After we had broke free from each other he wildly threw a right hand that connected with my face.  My nose started bleeding and I had to go into the house to get it stopped.  I guess Randy was in his glory from what I heard.  He quickly spread the news that he had just beat me up.  Since nobody was around to see it Randy’s glory was pretty shallow.  With his confidence at a high he boisterously challenged me to a fight at Richmond’s field at 4 O’clock on Saturday.  Quickly he spread the news that he had called me on and that it would be Saturday at 4.  Randy was determined to get the respect he wanted by pummeling an older kid in front of everyone.

I really didn’t want to fight Randy.  It wasn’t for fear of his big brother.  I’m sure that Randy bragged to Mike about how he had called me on.  I’m sure Mike told Randy that this time he was on his own.  Actually I think that Mike respected me.  He saw me competing against kids much bigger and doing quite well.  Mike also knew that I had not instigated this fight, it was all Randy.  He must have also recognized that this was not the case of a big kid picking on his little brother.  It was actually his little brother picking a fight with me.  Still there was no way out for me.  Randy had called me on and I would lose all neighborhood respect if I didn’t answer the bell.

I thought about the kind of fight that I would like to have with Randy.  As long as I was forced to fight I wanted it to be on my terms and on my strengths.  I remember a fight I saw Don fight.  Don was the best athlete in our neighborhood and physically the strongest kid around.  One day Dave and Don had a disagreement and Dave let Don know he wanted to fight.  Dave was a kid around Dons age who was very loud and energetic. Before Dave got to the field for the fight Don shared his strategy with me about how the fight would go.  It will be a headlock he said.  I’m sure that Don could have beaten Dave any way they fought, but he decided to use this tactic so nobody would get hurt.  Quickly Dave charged at Don and Don smoothly viced Dave’s head in the headlock grip.  I have to say that it was the most boring fight I have ever seen.  After about 10 minutes Dave escaped only to have Don reapply the grip.  Finally Dave gave up and that was the end of the fight.  Dave’s head was sore afterward but his demeanor wasn’t. He had a new found respect for Don.

Identical twin brothers wrestling, one with other in headlock

Don’s headlock idea wouldn’t be my strategy

My fight with Randy would not be so casual.  I couldn’t adopt Don’s headlock strategy. By wrestling with Randy I would put myself at risk for his wild rages.  Randy was at his best when he got mad or upset and charged wildly.  Being in close proximity of that like I would be in a wrestling match was not what I wanted.  Also because Randy outweighed me wrestling him would be to his advantage.  I decided to fight him from a distance using my old boxing skills I had practiced years ago.  Since I had the reach on Randy I hoped to be able to keep him literally at arms length.  Most of the time when two people fought they were seriously mad at each other.  This was not the case with Randy and I. I wished that Randy would just call the whole thing off but he had too much pride for that. With everyone excited to see a fight Randy wasn’t going to let them down.

Brian knocked on my door at about 10 minutes to 4.  Yes, the same Brian who bullied me.  That was the way it was in our neighborhood.  Friends could become enemies and enemies friends.  I was escorted over to the field and yes Terry was there to watch along with a few of my friends.  I soon realized that everyone there was for me even Brian and Terry.  I didn’t hear a single voice rooting for Randy.  They looked at it as an opportunity for someone to get Randy without Mike’s retaliation. Randy was waiting when I got there.  We started circling each other with fists raised.  This was exactly the fight I was prepared for.  Circling around looking for an opening and suddenly getting into hitting range I methodically jabbed with my left hand.  I heard the voices of my fans yelling for me to charge in.  However I ignored their voices and kept Randy at bay.  I started connecting with my punches and when Randy tried to counter I was just out of reach.  After awhile Randy was feeling some pain.  When I connected with a right squarely on his jaw Randy went into a rage.  Risking life and limb and crying as he charged he connected with his foot exactly how his brother Mike had kicked Lloyd.  I had dominated the fight but now it was a crucial moment.  I was in excruciating pain but I couldn’t let Randy know that.  I bravely held him at bay until I somewhat recovered.  Again I connected to his face and Randy went on a rage again.  He charged as tears started coming down his cheeks and I caught him coming in with a right hand.

Fighting Fist

With that Randy ran off of the field back to his house which was one house over.  Brian realizing my parents were watching from the backdoor of our house ran over and raised my hand in victory for them to see.  After an hour or so Randy was out and about hanging around the old gang trying to gain the respect that he lost earlier.  On the other hand my dad took me on a trip downtown probably happy I was in one piece.

I haven’t seen or heard about Randy in years.  The old neighborhood kids grew up and moved on and Richmond’s field eventually became a garden.  Last month I heard that Randy had recently passed away.  I never heard what he died from but the news seemed to catch even his brother by surprise. Although the fight was my strongest memory, I remember a lot of good things about Randy.  For instance one time we played in a word of life softball tournament.  At lunch they gave a salvation message and Randy was quick to respond.  Randy wanted to live his life for the Lord but it was very hard for him in the situation he was in.  You see his dad was an alcoholic which explains why Mike felt he had to be the man of the house.  As kids we look at what is apparent around us but don’t study the behind the scenes realities.  We look at the symptoms without considering what is causing their outbreak.

Rodney Dangerfield made a living as a comic talking about how he got no respect.  He was funny but It isn’t a laughing matter in real life.  Respect is something we earn by how we live. Having respect is a very important thing.  When you or I are witnessing to someone they will not hear us if they don’t respect us.  Reputation means everything in whatever we are standing for.  When we stand for God they may not like us or agree with us but they will respect us!  Trying to earn respect is why we fought so hard as kids.  That had to be why I reluctantly fought Randy that day.  Now Randy is gone…I hope he had a happy life.  I saw in his obituary that he was in the army for quite awhile.  I hope he got the respect he was looking for.  I have a strong feeling that he did!   I also read that Randy had been married since 1979!  In this age of divorces that is a record to be truly respected!  I hope that Randy found the Lord and was serving him.  I know that he had a heart for God but could never live the way he wanted to while in his daily dilemma.  The truth is we all have our own crosses to bare and no situation is the same.  We all are dealt our own cards and some hands are better than others.  I felt like I got a pretty good hand and Randy didn’t.

I ran into Mike a few years ago and we talked.  He was very happy to see me and I mentioned how everyone feared him in the neighborhood.  Although he knew that everyone respected him it was an empty forced respect that he had to constantly fight for. Mike talked about how regretful he was about his actions.  He knew and regretted his reputation as he very humbly told me his story.  You see Mike had lived in a neighborhood that he considered unsafe before they moved into our neighborhood.  Early on Mike felt it was his duty to protect his family and that didn’t change when they made the move.  It was hard to believe that this calm seemingly peaceful man was the same whirlwind raging guy I remembered.  He fought for our respect years ago and we were forced to give it to him, but now I respect him more than ever because without a fight he gave me reason to!

Experienced in Flags and Puck Marks!

Every now and then I’ll be on my way downtown when I’ll look on top of one of the tallest bank buildings.  Sure enough there is the American flag blowing in the breeze.  A smile will very slowly come to my face as I remember.  You see I have a little history with that particular flag location.  My family knows the story too and they will also mention the flag when they see it.

It was years ago 1979 to be exact and I had just graduated from college.  I had been going through rejections in the interview process for business positions mostly because of my lack of experience.  I was living with my parents and decided that I needed to be doing something, so I swallowed my pride one day and applied at Kelly Services.  Kelly Services was a place that employers could go to if they needed temporary help.  You would work for Kelly but they would send you to different places that they contracted with.  Usually the jobs were one day in duration as the companies had something that needed to be done that they weren’t willing to make a position for.  Fortunately the employment lady at Kelly must have taken a liking to me because I started getting calls.  She wouldn’t call until the morning that I was supposed to report and she would tell me where to go, what to expect, and who to report to.

One morning I received her call.  This position was a little different than the several she had sent me to before.  They needed a janitor type person for two weeks.  I’m not sure what the companies situation was.  I assume that either their regular person had quit or they went on vacation or something.  Anyway she told me to report downtown to the First National Bank building, who to report to, and what floor they were on.  When I arrived the manager went through all of the duties I would be responsible for and when I should do them.  Lastly he took me up on the roof of the building.  It felt kind of odd to be up there but there were walls around the ledges so it wasn’t like we were going to get blown off by a gust of wind.  “Each day you will be responsible for putting the flag up”, he stated.  At that point he pulled the flag out of a box and showed me how it was done.

Each day I would go into that fancy bank building.  It had a revolving door and heavy glass doors.  After entering the building I would turn to the right where there was this fancy elevator.  I was greeted each morning by a doorman who observed people coming in.  Entering the elevator I was always in the company of people dressed in 3 piece business suits.  Some of them didn’t seem much older than me but they were always in groups and seemed to have a mission.  There were lawyer offices on different floors and I assumed that they were either lawyers or assistants to the lawyers.  Anyway in the midst of all of these well dressed people I had my casual jeans and shirt on.  They never asked what I did or why I wasn’t in business attire.  They all seemed to be in their own little world and their days mission seemed utmost on their minds.

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I remember some of the janitor duties I performed (mostly picking up trash bags), but the thing I remember most was putting up that flag every morning.  At the time I never questioned why I had to put it up every day.  Why didn’t they just leave it up through the night?  I discovered from reading about the guidelines of the flag the answer.  The custom is to display the flag from sunrise to sunset only.  I don’t believe I took the flag down.  I’m pretty sure I left before sunset and someone else was responsible for that chore.  My flag job was one of those jobs that doesn’t get noticed until it isn’t done.  Much like the offensive lineman in football.  As long as they are doing their job we are concentrating on the Quarterback throwing his touchdowns.  However when the lineman makes a penalty all eyes are on him.  We are quick to blame but slow to give glory to these people.  They seem to be noticed only when they make a mistake.  I didn’t make a mistake as each day I had that flag flying high!

Flag

Brother Ingram was a man at the church I used to attend who had a similar position far from glory and adulation.  He did maintenance work inside the church and also mowed their expansive yard both back and front.  He revealed to me one time that it took him 4 hours to do the job and that was on a riding mower.  Brother Ingram was retired and did his duties as a labor of love for the church.  He wasn’t paid except maybe a tiny love gift at the end of the year.  If he were offered a weekly check he would not have accepted it.  He knew that it was a small church and that we were having a hard time paying it’s monthly bills.  He was offering his services as a gift so the church wouldn’t have to hire an expensive third party to do the job each week.  Brother Ingram always had the lawn in order.  Nobody really said anything about how the lawn looked.  It’s assumed that the lawn of a church will look good somehow or some way.  It never occurred to most that this man was giving his time each week to keep the church that he loved in order.  I don’t remember this ever happening but if Brother Ingram didn’t do his duty I’m sure it would have been noticed.  Otherwise nobody thought much about the church lawn as long as Brother Ingram was doing the job.

This church had an enormous amount of land (mostly in the back) that Brother Ingram mowed once a week as a labor of love!

This church had an enormous amount of land (mostly in the back) that Brother Ingram mowed once a week as a labor of love!

The most unusual job I ever performed was a one day job that Kelly Services sent me on before the flag raising job.  When she called I was told to wear warm clothing and boots.  I was to report to the Wings Stadium Ice Arena.  When I arrived there was another Kelly worker present also.  We were each given rags and a bottle of spray solution that looked like Windex.  “I want you to go around and clean all of those puck marks off of the wall”, we were told.  The marks on the arena walls were made from hockey pucks from a recent game.  I looked and there were literally hundreds or maybe thousands of black marks all over the white wall.  Some were more easily removed than others.  After spraying the solution on it took much elbow grease to remove even one mark.  This was a slow and tedious process.  As we worked away we carried on a conversation to avoid the tedious nature of the job.  I know that when we were done for the day the arena looked better.  I remember that even after all of the work we put in there were still marks that wouldn’t totally come off.  I never thought that I would spend an entire working day cleaning puck marks off of the arena walls.  The next day I was sent somewhere else and I was thankful!

Hockey Rink

Remembering these unusual jobs that I did years ago makes me realize that the behind the scenes jobs are important too.  Usually when you see a person or an organization that is successful you see the person who is the face of that effort.  Very rarely is one person responsible for success or failure.   It takes efforts from people in the forefront along with people in the background.  Too often we are quick to give credit and financial reward to someone in the public eye while never considering the contributors that do the little things that are needed but are not very glamorous.

For too many of us Christians self pride has become too much of our equation.  We are always striving for the perfect position and never finding it.  Too many times we strive for that position where we are the face of the whole campaign because we are taught that is how to succeed.  We’re not interested in the Kelly Services positions in the spiritual realm. In the end God looks at our hearts. It isn’t what I can accomplish it is what he can accomplish through me!  Instead of having the attitude of a ruler he teaches us to have the attitude of a servant.  When two of Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest Jesus made this point. In Matthew chapter 20 verses 26-27 Jesus tells them “But among you it will be different.  Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”  You see when the rewards are given out after life’s journey we very well might be surprised that big rewards are given to people who are not known for worldly fame.  The goal scorers lavished with praise upon this earth might not be rewarded as much as the servants who cleaned up the puck marks!

A Cry For Help!

Hurriedly I stuffed my feet into my shoes and ran after my sister.  She was two and a half years older than me and three school years ahead.  I don’t remember if I was three or four but I wanted to go to a place she was going.  It seemed that she was going to a place of fun and excitement while I was stuck at home.  Every weekday she would catch the school bus around fifty yards from our house.  It was kind of a spur of the moment thing but I was determined to go too!  So here I was running in  my hard shoes that were untied (hadn’t learned that yet) to a big yellow bus on her heals.  As I climbed the big step of the bus my dream suddenly stopped.  The long arm of the bus driver recognized and disqualified me immediately.  The next thing I knew my mom was picking me up from the bus step and holding me in here arms as I cried out of hurt and frustration.  It didn’t take long for me to stop crying as mom comforted me with her words and hug.  In her arms my disappointment quickly went away.

The bus left without me!

The bus left without me!

Mrs. Kramer was the bus driver.  I found this out when I finally got to ride the bus.  Usually things went smooth as Mrs. Kramer operated that big bus to perfection in her many stops along the way.  Through our neighborhood she would make stops along Byrd Drive all the way to the end.  The road ended and she would turn the bus around at the dead end which had a dirt circle with just enough room to make the maneuver.  Then she would circle around to the next road over and pick those kids up.  Turning the bus around again at their dead end (which was paved) she made her way to the final stops in the circle before hitting our road again and eventually the main road.  The route of course never varied.  The only difference from day to day was possibly someone running late for the bus causing a slight delay.  Normally Mrs. Kramer operated the bus like clockwork day after day.

Mrs. Kramer was a middle aged lady with brown curly hair and glasses.  She was as tough as nails and didn’t allow anything to bother her on her mission to get us to school.  I admired the way she could operate that huge bus.  The bus had one of those big stick shifts and it was cool watching her shift that thing so smoothly.  I remember her forceful words when things were getting out of control.  You know the times when the bus was too noisy or someone was causing trouble.  She could quiet the storm immediately with “the lights are on and I want it quiet!”  The lights she was referring to were the lights on the ceiling.  Her number one rule to all of her passengers was that those lights were to be respected at all times.  Most of the time she didn’t have to use them.  Those were the times when you got on the bus and it made it’s rounds without any incidences and a few minutes later you were dropped off in front of the school.  However I remember times when the lights came on and her call for attention was heard.  It might have been when she had to cross the railroad tracks with a train on it’s way, or when kids were so unruly that a warning had to be made.  She would pull the bus over and stand in the aisle as she made her statement.  You could hear the sharpness in her voice as she took complete control of the situation.  She had the power to kick people off of the bus and we all knew that.  If Mrs. Kramer was not happy it was bad news.  She ruled that bus like a dictator and we were just happy to be under her reign.

Although our parents may not have met Mrs. Kramer they all had a deep respect for her.  They knew that it is quite a challenge driving a bus with the responsibility of getting their kids safely to and from school every day.  They knew that she was doing them a service and even though most didn’t know her the job she was doing was appreciated.  Their appreciation meant that they would do their part in getting their kids to school.  Usually this meant making sure their kids got to the bus stop on time.   However there was one time when much more was required.

Although it wasn’t raining that day we had received a lot of rain in the days before.  Mrs. Kramer was making her rounds down Byrd Drive stopping at each bus stop in her usual manner.  As she attempted to do her normal circle turnaround on the dirt at the dead end something strange happened.  Sitting in my seat near the back I noticed that the bus stopped moving.  All of the sudden we are hearing the sound of wheels spinning as we were sitting still.  Mrs. Kramer attempted to put the big bus in reverse but the wheels were clearly stuck.  It seems that with all of the mud that had formed the bus was literally spinning it’s wheels.  Mrs. Kramer didn’t use the overhead lights that day.  The problem wasn’t related to anything we were doing.  In fact the bus was unusually quiet as we realized hers and our predicament. After several efforts Mrs. Kramer realized that she couldn’t do any more on her own to free the bus.

Mrs. Kramer asked that three or four kids go to their parents for help while the rest of us stayed on the bus.  It didn’t take long before we saw a team of men including my dad carrying their shovels walking toward the bus.  Their presence made us all feel better.  I’m sure that it meant a lot to Mrs. Kramer.  She had been so faithful in doing her job through the years and now that she couldn’t there was a team to give a helping hand.  It didn’t take long before those men had the big bus freed from it’s entanglement and circling back on it’s route again!

It’s strange how thousands of times we traveled that same route with no problems.  Those times were so routine that I have a hard time remembering a single one.  Yet the time that we had trouble was so unusual that almost every detail is still there.  Perhaps you are at a time in your life when you feel stuck in the mud.  Maybe life has went along smoothly until something occurred that slowed your bus down to a halt.  The good news is that God is there to help you!  When Mrs. Kramer realized that she needed help her thoughts and actions were released to get that help.  When we are in trouble it’s nice to know that a simple call will bring God to the rescue.  There is comfort in him much like the comfort I found with my rejection from the school bus years ago as I was held in my mothers loving arms.

 

 

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