Puzzle

A preaching mentor of mine recently compared the church to a jigsaw puzzle and its members to individual pieces — indented to receive other pieces, and protruding to be received by others.  As big a fan of puzzles, the church, and good gospel preaching, you would think I would have made better use of that word picture over the years.  Well, let me spend 300 words fixing that error of omission.

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Lean into stress

Run toward your fears.  That’s some billboard-variety advice I get while driving past the local university.  And as we all know, multicolored roadside signs are the most reliable source of life advice these days.

Lean into it.  That’s how the same basic sentiment was expressed in an article I read recently.  Except this wasn’t written by a nameless, faceless intern.  This was from an expert in the field of stress management who woke up one day struggling mightily to manage his own stress.

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The wise way to eat a marmot

A couple in Mongolia recently ate raw marmot meat, which is apparently a thing in Mongolia.  It is believed to be a health boost by the locals.  (A marmot is a rodent, sort of like a woodchuck or large squirrel.  I prefer them braised or fricasseed, but that’s just me.)  The couple contracted bubonic plague and died — which I think we can all agree is pretty much the opposite of “a health boost.”

The resulting quarantine held up the lives of 118 locals and tourists for six days.  The danger appears to be over now, so our family vacation to Mongolia is back on.  Get back to packing, girls.

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Perspective

From a distance, my lawn looks great.  Up close, my lawn looks terrible.  Both perspectives are unfair, I think.  It is self-serving and lazy to imagine that a quick glance from the street is how best to measure the quality of my work.  It is self-defeating and depressing to hover over each blade of grass (or weed, or dead spot) and wonder what I did so horribly wrong as to bring on this tragedy.

Perspective makes all the difference.  You’re either a hero or a goat, a genius or an idiot.  Both perspectives are true, and both are lies.

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Preserving the ancient boundary

A landmark, the only one left of its kind, stands upright and proud near the town of Deadwood, Texas, on what is now the Texas-Louisiana border.  It is all that remains of what was once the boundary between the United States of America and the Republic of Texas.

        It stands, more than 150 years after it was erected, for three reasons: it is made of solid granite; it reaches six feet beneath ground level; and it has been deliberately preserved by people who value their heritage.

 Consider this.  Then ask yourselves, “How important is my heritage of faith?”

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Flossing

I hope Dr. Naumann, my childhood dentist, is reading this somewhere.  For the first time … ever, probably, I purchased dental floss.  And I am actually using it.  On my teeth.  I’m not consistent, but I do it.  In fact, I have fibers of mango wedged between my lower incisors right now, and I can’t wait to get home and dig for them.

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Horse

The great Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”  That concept is difficult for us to understand in a world that has never not known automobiles.  But we read about a world (there may even be a few souls left who remember one) in which the quality of your horse or horses determined the quality of your journey.  Knowing a better way now, it seems silly to yearn for yesteryear.

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Niksen: The art of doing your best work by doing nothing at all

Doing something is not always the right choice.  Sometimes it is better to do nothing.  Nothing at all.  It’s a concept the Dutch call niksen.  It encourages people to deliberately take time every day — especially the busiest days — to sit motionless, gaze out a window at nothing in particular, whatever it takes to disengage your mind and body.

American workers, always with the go-go-go mentality, tend to view this approach with disdain.  It’s lazy.  It’s wasteful.  The only proper way to work is full throttle, full time.  On a related note, American workers suffer greatly from depression, stress, high blood pressure, and divorce.  A connection, perhaps?

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Rain: an opportunity, not an excuse

More from The Corporate Coach.  (It’s amazing what you learn when you read books instead of watching TV.  Just saying.)  James Miller actually encourages his sales people to not only go on late afternoon sales calls (traditionally labeled “waste of time” by management), but to pray for rain.  He says that when total strangers on your doorstep, soaking wet, looking for someone to talk to about their product, the strangers frequently get warm receptions, hot coffee, and big deals.

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Light bulb moment: Why my enemies hate me so much

Last week a video emerged from 2015 (the internet is forever — remember that, kids, the next time you Instagram a photo of yourself in a state and location you might regret later) of former Vice President Joe Biden commenting on his relationship with former Vice President Dick Cheney.  He called him a “decent man.”  “I actually like Dick Cheney, for real,” he said.  “I get on with him.”  Cheney, of course, has borne the brunt of the wrath of the opposition (and a fair portion of his own base) for the war in Iraq that his boss perpetrated.

I don’t care what you think about Biden, Cheney, Iraq, or any other particular element of this conversation.  I share this story merely to tell you about the light bulb that went off in my head upon reading some of the vitriol spewed forth against Mr. Biden from some of the people who, until five minutes ago, may have been looking at his 2020 presidential candidacy with an eye toward supporting it.

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Good

I have given up complaining about cashiers asking me for a “good” phone number or e-mail address.  First of all, I’m flattered, but I’m happily married.  Second, even if I concede that you actually need my data, why specify that it must be “good”?  Are they the type of people who ask for information in other contexts (the club, the gym, wherever else undesirable people are making overtures)?  Anyway, the editor in my cringes when I hear that.  Unnecessary words make me sad.

That said, I encountered a barista recently who was asking for “a good name” to call out when the patron’s coffee was ready.  “A good name.”  OK, that’s a bridge too far.  I must comment on that.

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Where is your commitment?

In The Corporate Coach by James B. Miller, a book on my shelf that is left over from a long-abandoned career in sales management, James Miller discusses the role of “the twitch in your elbow” while interviewing job applicants.  Gut instinct, we might say.  And a big part of that, he says, is the commitment the applicant shows toward other activities.  If he’s a scratch golfer, he didn’t get there just with 18 holes on Saturday.  Maybe he’ll cut out of work early some days.  If he’s out on his boat every weekend, who’s to say he won’t miss a few Monday mornings?

Commitment is a character trait not everyone has.  It is to be admired. 

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Rabbits, eggs, and the Lord's day

Rabbits and eggs are in great abundance this time of year.  And anyone who knows anything about the history of Easter knows why.  They are symbols of fertility.  The spring equinox has always been celebrated as the time that the earth is in full recovery from winter.  The earth has come back from the dead, as it were.  The pagans, who saw the earth as an entity to be worshiped, turned the equinox into an opportunity for revelry — and, typically, debauchery.  (Children, if you don’t know what “fertility” and “debauchery” mean, ask your parents.)  The Catholic church incorporated local pagan worship traditions as it spread throughout Europe many centuries ago.  Thus, the celebration of the rebirth of the earth became the celebration of the risen Lord.  (The Greek word in Acts 12:4 rendered “Easter” by the King James Version translators is the same word rendered “Passover” every other time it occurs.)

Personally, I like rabbits.  And I absolutely love eggs. 

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Drift

I cut my front lawn in long strips, one to the immediate left of the other.  If you cut yours left to right, I have no issue with that.  Agree to disagree. 

Anyway, I say that because I have noticed a distinct tendency for my rows to drift to the left just as I am preparing to make the turn and head back in the opposite direction.  The amateur psychologist in me thinks it is a tendency to rush through things, that I am eager to start the next stage  — and therefore move closer to the finish line — before I have actually finished the current project.

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1 + 1 = 2, therefore you are an idiot

Facts are stubborn things, said John Adams.  But being stubborn does not always win you an argument.  We have all been in “discussions” in which we were correct and the simpleton on the other side of the table was not.  We laid out the facts as plainly as anyone could.  And they remained unconvinced.

Maybe they found comfort in character assassination, or muddied the waters with irrelevant information.  Maybe they just threw up their hands and left the room.  Maybe they even took a swing at you.  What they didn’t do, though, is change their mind.  Facts had nothing to do with their position, either before or after the discussion.

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Hipsters

All hipsters look alike.  This was the assertion recently written in one of those magazines that publishes those sort of articles.  Hipsters, as it turns out, don’t like to be pigeonholed like that any more than lawyers, ethnic minorities, or SEC football fans.  One actually wrote a threatening letter, accusing the magazine of using a photograph of him without his permission and disparaging him personally.

Turns out, it wasn’t him in the picture after all.  He just looked like the hipster in question.  Ah, irony.

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