relationships


Many men complain about their “honey do” list. They despise household chores and would rather take a nap in their La-Z-Boy than split a cord of firewood. Not me – I actually enjoy doing jobs around the house. In fact, I feel bad when I’m not doing something. I’ve always got at least three or four projects going on and have a backlog of about a hundred more in my head.

My desire to be constantly working on something was obvious last week when I had to take some time off. I came down with a bug Saturday and was incapacitated all day Sunday. It was one of those sicknesses where I literally couldn’t do anything… and it drove me crazy. The whole time I was sick, I kept thinking about how much time I was wasting… all the stuff I could be working on… how awful television is on Sundays after football season.

While complaining to Sara about how worthless I felt by not doing anything, she finally got fed up and told me how bad I was at being sick. She’s right – taking it easy and doing nothing just doesn’t compute in my efficiency-oriented mind. She said I should take more time to do nothing and relax.

What?

Here’s the catch. I take pride in the fact that I stay busy with all kinds of projects and activities. What Sara was trying to tell me is sometimes she wishes I would relax and do nothing… with her. With a four-year-old and one-year-old, there aren’t too many opportunities for us to relax. I had that opportunity last week and spent the whole time sulking about what I was unable to do. That’s when I realized that I don’t need a honey do list, I need a honey don’t list.

There are times when we can accomplish so much more by doing less. I’m going to try to focus more on what I’m accomplishing and less on what I’m doing.

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Valentine’s Day is this Sunday. If you didn’t know that guys, stop reading now and go get a card. I’ve told this story before, but I’ve added several new readers over the past few months, so here it is again.

I had my first date with my wife on Valentine’s Day.  Ambitious… cheesy… you make the call.  We were both in college at the time, so it wasn’t anything fancy.  I wanted to impress her, so I bought a couple of gifts for our first Valentine’s Day together.  The first thing I picked up was The Titanic soundtrack (which she already had).  That movie was big at the time, but I wasn’t a big fan.  To this day, I have still not made it through the entire movie.  I blame this film for setting the precedence for several 3+ hour movies that have followed.  Come on, don’t the editors have kids?  The only song I remember from the CD was that Celine Dion tune that seemed to last as long as the movie.  My reasoning for buying it was if I thought it was cheesy and horrific, it must be romantic.

Everyone knows that you have to get flowers for Valentine’s Day, so I paid a visit to the local florist.  Early on, I knew Sara was “the one” so I really wanted to impress her.  Couple this with my botanical ignorance at the time, and you end up with a terrible choice.  While all of the other guys were cliché with their roses and chocolates, Sara was the fortunate recipient of… a shrub… an azalea to be exact.  Hey it was big, colorful, and different.  I thought I was a genius.  Once we realized what it was, I planted it near a stream at her apartment.  It died.

Both of my gifts were useless, but she married me anyway.  We typically don’t even do gifts for Valentine’s Day any more.  With two kids and the busyness of life, we prefer to go out for a nice dinner and have some time together without changing a diaper, mediating an argument over who gets to sit in which chair, or getting boogers out of hair.  My azalea may not have been a great gift, but it’s still a good story.  Try to make a good story for yourself this Valentine’s Day.

Two lyrical titles in a row… Today’s posting was going to be about how I am weary of the glorification of Michael Jackson, his television media dominance, and the memorial service, which was filled with enough hyperbole to make a geometry teacher giddy, but I realized by posting on this, I would be contributing to the very thing I was complaining about.  So, this is another last minute posting.

 

Instead of focusing on the details of the ceremony, I want to focus on how his death affects you.  That right, how has the death of Michael Jackson impacted your life?  Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.

 

We spend so much of our lives trying to be important.  Whether it is through career success, education, recognition of our volunteer efforts, or the belief that we possess an inner Hollywood actor/rock star/professional athlete/presidential candidate, many of us aspire to do great things. 

 

But what are great things?

 

In terms of recognition and fame, MJ was right up there at the top.  He had world-wide recognition, amazing talent, and celebrity eccentricity, but is your life any different now that he is gone?  Sure there were thousands of people who showed up to mourn his death but what personal impact did he have on your life?

 

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, there are countless mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, and friends who leave this world anonymous to everyone except those who were close to them.  They may not warrant media attention, huge memorial services, or gold-plated caskets, but their passing has a profound impact on the people in their lives.

 

The point I am trying to make is when we focus on our fame, success, or recognition, we shift our attention to a broad spectrum of people who are only superficially affected by us in order to pump up our own ego while ignoring those on whom we can make a lasting impression.  In order to truly do great things, we sometimes have to forgo opportunities for fame and fortune in order to focus on the people in our lives that are truly influenced by our existence.

Wedding Cake

My ten-year wedding anniversary is fast approaching (June 12).  It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since we said, “I do.”  In honor of this historic event, I thought I would share a few of our moments with you.

 

Our First Date

Our first date was Valentine’s Day.  Ambitious, I know.  We were both in college at the time, so it wasn’t anything fancy.  I wanted to impress her, so I bought a couple of gifts for our first Valentine’s Day together.  The first thing I picked up was The Titanic soundtrack (which she already had).  That movie was really big at the time, but I wasn’t a big fan.  To this day, I have still not made it through the entire movie.  I blame this film for setting the precedence for several 3+ hour movies that have followed.  Come on, don’t the editors have kids?  The only song I remember from the CD was that Celine Dion tune that seemed to last as long as the movie.  My reasoning for buying it was if I thought it was cheesy and horrific, it must be romantic.

 

Everyone knows that you have to get flowers for Valentine’s Day, so I paid a visit to the local florist.  Early on, I knew Sara was “the one” so I really wanted to impress her.  Couple this with my botanical ignorance at the time, and you end up with a pretty terrible choice.  While all of the other guys were cliché with their roses and chocolates, Sara was the fortunate recipient of… a shrub… an azalea to be exact.  Hey it was big, colorful, and different.  I thought I was a genius.  Once we realized what it was, I planted it near a stream at her apartment.  It died.

 

How I Impressed Her

Let me preface this by saying that Sara is now a very good cook (thank you, Southern Living).  However, in her younger days, her food was… um… not quite as palatable.  It wasn’t from lack of effort; she tried to make lots of things but the results were not always great.  She usually had consistency problems that stemmed from improper measurements (like the time she put 1 cup of soy sauce in a chicken dish instead of 1 tablespoon – my blood pressure still has not returned to normal).

 

One of her goofs actually helped me woo her.  It was our first Halloween.  We carved a jack-o-lantern and roasted pumpkin seeds when Sara decided to make a pumpkin pie.  I assume she had a recipe, but she did not possess good judgment.  I guess she wanted to impress me with an authentic pumpkin pie made from a real pumpkin and not that canned stuff.  What she did not know is that when you use real pumpkin, you use the inner part of the rind.  She used the stringy pumpkin guts.  It was the only pie I’ve ever eaten that you could slurp up like spaghetti noodles.  Despite a consistency more closely resembling a wet wig than a dessert, I ate the entire thing.  That’s when she knew I was a keeper.  She now uses canned pumpkin.

 

Our First Vacation

Not counting our honeymoon, our first vacation was a trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone.  We literally loaded up our backpacks with a tent, food, and sleeping bags and boarded a plane.  We flew into Jackson, Wyoming and pitched our tent at Lake Jenny in front of the Tetons.  To me, this was paradise.  Sara really liked it too but since we had only been married for a year, I was less sensitive to a woman’s expectations of a vacation.  After a few days of sleeping on the ground, eating canned tamales, pushing Sara through miles of hiking, hearing animals browse around our tent at night, and talking to the ranger about a bear family that was getting friendly with the campers, her patience was waning.  Finally, when a bear actually ripped the backpack off a camper in our campground, she said something like, “I’m staying in cabin.  You can stay with me if you want to.”  For our last vacation, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in St. Croix… I’m learning.

 

Asking for Permission

The weekend of my marriage proposal, I visited her parents.  They had only met me a few times and I was still trying to impress them.  They needed to replace a VCR or something like that and I, being the tech-savvy engineer, volunteered my services.  I don’t know what I did to their TV/VCR/cable box, but we weren’t able to watch TV until they called for backup the next day.  Since I was proposing the next day, I had to ask for permission that night.  Imagine that… the idiot that can’t hook up a VCR asks you for your daughter’s hand in marriage.  Of course they granted permission and seemed happy for us.  I found out why after the wedding day when I took over Sara’s automotive insurance.  She had a driving record that could have made her a felon in some states.

 

The Birth of Our Daughters

Both times, I felt useless and inept.  Both times, I was amazed by her strength and fortitude.  She was amazing.

bass

There are certain memories in a dad’s life that will always be locked away for safe keeping.  I had one of these last week when I took my 3-1/2 year old daughter on her first fishing trip.

 

Outfitted with a Scooby Doo fishing pole and a Mystery Machine tackle box (which was full of bubble-blowing toys), we went to Lake Lanier to seek out my little girl’s inner Bill Dance.    The area we went to consists of a parking area with a cove used for fishing on one side and a sandy beach for the sunbathers/swimmers on the other side.

 

Mom and baby sister went to the beach side while the little angler and I climbed down the bank to fish.  It was about 87 degrees, so I knew that I would not have much time before the fisher would become the fish.  Olivia watched intently as I tied a little jig head onto her line and was excited that she got to pick out the color jig she would use.  Her casting still needs some work, but she can reel in the line like a pro.  Every time her bait came back, she would say, “Hey, I didn’t catch a fish.”

 

Altogether, she probably did 10 or 15 minutes worth of fishing before she decided she wanted to go swimming on the other side.  She spent about an hour and half on the beach side building sand castles, picking up shells, and playing in the water.  Apparently beaches are more appealing than fishing to a 3-1/2 year old.

 

Later that evening, exhausted from the day’s events.  I asked Olivia what her favorite activity was.  Her reply was, “Going fishing with you, daddy.” 

 

Totally worth it.

 

I’m sure you did a lot of things last week.  I bet you completed a lot of tasks that were related to your career, furthered you education, improved your home, or allowed you unwind from the stresses of your life.  How many of you created a memory that will last a lifetime?

 

 

By the way, I have no idea who the kids portraying Napoleon and Pedro in the photo are.

My recent trip abroad got me thinking about what it means to “minister” to others.  If you’re like me, when you hear the word “minister” you usually think about a church pastor, religious leader, or the head of a governmental administrative office.  While these may fit a few of the definitions of the word, it is a mistake to believe that ministry work should be left only to those whose full-time job is in “the ministry”.  There are actually several definitions for the word minister.  Those listed below came from Dictionary.com.

min⋅is⋅ter

–noun

1.

a person authorized to conduct religious worship; member of the clergy; pastor.

 

2.

a person authorized to administer sacraments, as at Mass.

 

3.

a person appointed by or under the authority of a sovereign or head of a government to some high office of state, esp. to that of head of an administrative department: the minister of finance.

 

4.

a diplomatic representative accredited by one government to another and ranking next below an ambassador.

 

5.

a person acting as the agent or instrument of another.

–verb (used with object)

6.

to administer or apply: to minister the last rites.

 

7.

Archaic. to furnish; supply.

–verb (used without object)

8.

to perform the functions of a religious minister.

 

9.

to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.: to minister to the needs of the hungry.

 

10.

to contribute, as to comfort or happiness.

 

The first eight definitions go along with our stereotypical view of the word, but look at nine and ten.  This is something that all of us are called to do.  When we “give service, care, or aid” and when we “contribute… to (the) comfort or happiness” of others, we are providing ministry.

 

During my recent trip to Belarus, our team ministered to the needs of our students.  We gave them a service by providing them with an English course, but we also contributed to their comfort and happiness by providing an atmosphere where they could have fun and take a break from the hurts and disappointments that they experience outside the class.

 

Do you have to go halfway around the world to minister to the needs of others?  Of course not!  There are ministry opportunities in your community, at work, even under your own roof.  Recognizing and acting on those opportunities will help us find significance regardless of our job description.

 

I think this is where many of us lose our direction.  For example, you may be in a predicament where you feel that you should be doing more to minister to others.  You have a heartfelt desire to put your own selfish ambition on hold while enhancing the lives of others, but you are not quite ready to quit your job and enroll in a seminary or join the Peace Corps.  We have this “all or nothing” mentality that erroneously believes that if we cannot dedicate all of our time and resources ministering to the needs of others, then we will leave that work to those who can.

 

Think about it.  If all ministry work were left to church pastors and clergy members, who would help meet the needs of those individuals who have never been to a church or those who are too uncomfortable or embarrassed to express their brokenness to someone that they hardly know?  I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, but when we take the time to really pay attention to those people who are in our lives and how we can use our resources to meet their needs, we begin to discover fulfillment and purpose in our lives while simultaneously bringing happiness into theirs.

With the economy in the tank and the Dow dropping like eyelids at a 30-hour Matlock marathon, we have heard the same advice repeated endlessly – stay the course.  Almost any financial expert will tell you that if you give up on your stocks now, you will lock in your losses and waste the investment that you may have taken years to grow.  “Don’t panic,” they tell us.  It may take some time, but the market will recover – it always does.  Experts agree that the best thing to do now is to continue investing.  If we will consistently invest during times of economic uncertainty we will be thankful later.

 

If only we were as loyal to our personal relationships as we are to our mutual funds.  What happens when relationships take a nosedive of the same magnitude as our current economic crisis? We usually end up selling and locking in our losses.  We stop contributing; thinking that further investment into a failing relationship is a waste of time.

 

Whether your current relationship struggle is with a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker, I urge you to stay the course.  If you continue investing during times of relational uncertainty, you will be thankful later.

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