Friday, May 27, 2016

What Color is your Apron?

Give a boy a horse, he’ll ride for a day; teach a boy to horse around, he’ll have friends for life – An old proverb I just made up.

My wife and I were at a megastore one day for a bit of shopping. There was one small item we needed, but weren’t quite sure where to find it, so we located a Customer Service Representative (CSR) to help us. You could tell she worked there by the apron she wore.

I asked her where I might find what we were looking for. She scrunched her eyes together for a moment and concluded that was a good question.

She seemed equally baffled by what it was exactly we were looking for, so we gave her the name of the product, the brand, and added the “as seen on TV” prompt the advertisement on television had used to direct us here to this establishment in the first place.

At that point her eyes widened a bit in near-recognition of what we were seeking, then went back into a deep-dive scrunch before concluding, as before, that it was a good question for which she had no answer.

Good soldier that she was, though, she stood her post and did not move. She suggested we try a spot in the exact opposite corner of the store from which she was located, and wished us well on our journey.

We departed for the far reaches of Wally’s World (name changed to protect the identity of the store; any similarities to establishments real or imagined is purely coincidental), but never did we find the gizmo that would have made our lives much more meaningful and complete. Sigh.

That’s quite different from what I experience when visiting a local establishment where I’m able to find true and genuine value in the world of, oh, let’s say “hardware” just for the sake of the story.

Whenever I drop in like “Tim ‘the Tool Man’ Taylor,” I am greeted by black-shirted CSRs who know me both by sight and (often) by name.

Knowing the skills and expertise with which I carry out life as a human being on planet earth, they immediately go into full blown blue-light-special-compassion mode and enquire as to how they might help me.

I generally assure them that all sorts of specialists and professionals have been trying to find the answer to that question for a number of years now, and yet the CSRs insist that this time things might just be different.

Having filled me with a sense of hope, I will confess what it is I’m looking for, and they will walk with me, and together we will look for what it is I seek. Not only that, but they will answer questions I have regarding the project I’m working on, and if that particular CSR doesn’t have the answer, they will find an in-house specialist who will pick up where they left off. That’s true customer service.

The best thing about that store is that being helpful seems to be a part of their culture. It doesn’t appear to be an affect or something they’re regurgitating out of a training manual or online course. When you pop into the store, they’re glad to see you and they want to help you find what you’re looking for.

Whether at home or out and about, I think it is important to be of service – to be ready to help. I think it is important to see a person – not a customer; to see a person and not a purse.

That’s something Jesus taught. “I came … to serve” and his followers suggest we “have this (same) attitude in us.”

He’s given each of us an apron - our smile - and any way you slice it, we are Christ’s Service Representative; we are expected to actively seek the face of Christ in everyone we meet.

Every person is walking around with a list of needs tucked away in a pocket, and as God’s CSRs, we have the privilege of asking them, “May I help?”

In time, we might even discover with joy that we’ve not been called to stand guard over some spot in some aisle, but to join hands with those who seek, and scratch items off our lists together as we journey with them here in this, our valley.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Sacred Host

With weary hands, the priest lifts the host

Gazing upon that flattened disc – that unleavened mass

As it hovers over the paten, the chalice, and the sacred linens.

Priestly eyes are fixed thereupon,

Watching to see if God will swoop down to land

and change that bit of bread into flesh

into blood

into God’s very own self.

Every eye in God’s own House is upraised
In Holy Expectation

In Mystical Silence

In Sacred Reverence.

Soon, the weary arms begin to tire

And the bread is lowered once again

To the plate from which it was taken.

Jesus finds his rest upon that sacred space

As the hands of the old priest hover o’er it

Thumbs crossed, left on right.

In silence, God alights, and all is right

And the reverent crowd,

Saintly sinners all

Behold the grace of God in mercy broken.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bluebirds in the Valley

Freedom shows the point of Christianity because it discloses the final goal of our lives, which is to share in God’s unspeakable freedom. Timothy Radcliffe, OP

A Mountain Bluebird swept down from the East and landed on the fence across the street. The air was warm and still, making the landing appear quite effortless.

The bird gazed across the yard. His back was to this observer, and he seemed to be surveying his realm with peace, grace, and serenity.

After a few moments he was joined by another of his species. She did not share his powder-blue coloring, but she was definitely “of a kind”.

The two stared at one another for a few moments and then departed. At first their journey took them briefly north. I wondered if they had to fly into the wind like planes off an aircraft carrier. What happens if there is no wind? I often ponder such matters when I am alone.

As I meditated on the world of my feathery friends, they circled back and made their way to the shelter of the trees outside my front window, disappearing into the needled greenery of the old spruce.

I say “old” but it is really just an adolescent in the world of trees. She has only seen about three decades come and go, but what are thirty years in relation to all eternity? The tree neither knows, nor cares. She simply rises from the ground, drawing her energy from sun, soil, and air.

“She neither spins nor sows, yet not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like her,” said the rabbi on the Mount, “so why fret? Why worry? Why be anxious?”

At that point a movement caught my eye and the birds flew out of the tree and onto the stone path beneath. They hopped to and fro for a moment, and then stood still.

“Why aren’t you standing watch over the nest,” asked the blue-feathered one (seemingly) as he glanced at his mate with unblinking purpose.

“Why aren’t you?” she shot back with an equally unblinking stare-down.

They stood motionless like that for a few seconds, glaring at one another with focused determination, and then … they smiled. I swear to all that is, they almost broke out into birdie laughter and went about checking the ground for food, grubs, seeds, worms, or whatever it is bluebirds find their nutritional delight in, and after they had found all there was to find in our sparse space, they flew away to points unknown.

Jesus said, “I have come that you might have an abundant life.” He did not say he came to give us an abundance of things, but an abundance of life.

Watching those birds for ten or fifteen minutes might have seemed wasteful to some, but not to me. They stuck around long enough I was able to retrieve my camera and even take a few photographs. That’s highly unusual as it has been my experience that birds (especially) don’t like to sit still to have their pictures taken.

Either that or I set a too leisurely pace as a photographer.

With digital photography, one can snap away and select the “perfect” picture out of a hundred (or thousand) taken, but I have always been of the “slow and steady wins the race” variety of shutterbug.

Some people are “whipper snappers” – whipping out their cameras and snapping away. I’m more of a “slugger-snapper” – sluggishly deciding … to … get … my … cam … era … and … zzz.

But that’s OK; that’s alright; that’s just the way I am, and I’m used to it. I really relate to a shirt I saw the other day. It said, “I’m a man of my word. I said I’d fix it. You don’t have to keep reminding me every six months!”

The birds of the air know enough to find what they need on the land and in the trees that surround them. They do not water their lawns; nor do they mow or trim. They haven’t got fingers or thumbs, yet they build exquisite nests. They haven’t got computers, and yet they know egg-zactly how to multiply.

That’s not a bad life all in all. They may be blue, but I confess I’m green with envy in this, our valley.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day Tribute

My mother (RIP), Barb, and our daughter Jennifer (1986)

Barb, Dave, and Jennifer (ca. 1994)

My Dad, Dave, Mom, and Barb (ca. 1987)

Barb, ca. 1980

Barb, ca. 1955

I searched hi and low for pictures of my bio-mother,
but the search yielded nothing,
although I know I've got some.

I shall continue my search and report back.