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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lighting My Fire

The overarching theme of my Monday Messages this year is about finding ways to serve others. I am supposed to be figuring out what gifts I have been blessed with and then use those gifts to help others.  Well, the past two weeks were certainly filled with multiple opportunities, but for some reason most of them involved lighting, or at least lighting up people’s lives a little bit… as well as my own!

1. The first opportunity came when I received an urgent email from a friend that the lights for the Cross on top of Battle Mountain in San Diego were out. He asked me for help, so I grabbed my tools, drove to San Diego and climbed to the top of the mountain. It ended up taking several hours to disassemble the electrical components and troubleshoot the system, but I eventually found a burned wire buried below one of the lighting vaults. By the time I was done, I was hot, tired, sweaty and dirty. But when I stepped back to view the cross with the lights shining brightly, I got this warm feeling inside that’s hard to explain.

2. The second opportunity came when I noticed my neighbor’s hallway lights were burned out. My neighbor only comes out from Scottsdale 4-5 times a year, so when I heard he was coming out that evening I did a quick inspection of his house and noticed quite a few lights out. I didn’t have time to drive to my warehouse in Irvine, so I ran down to Home Depot instead. As I was putting the lights into my truck I noticed the lady parked next to me had a large bag of concrete in her shopping cart and was just standing there looking at it. She appeared pregnant, so I walked over and started to say, “I noticed you’re pregnant and need help”. But then I realized, hey… she might not be pregnant, which would be just like me to open my big mouth. So instead I just asked her if she needed help and she immediately said yes and started glowing with a big smile. So I figured if she was “glowing” then she maybe she was pregnant, but either way, I was once again got that warm, hard to explain feeling inside again.

3. The third opportunity came when my Father-in Law mentioned that an elderly friend of his needed help with the lights in her garage. She is a really sweet lady who has had some serious health issues recently. Then a few months ago her husband passed away, so life has been really hard for her. She lives alone in a house in Mission Viejo, so I grabbed my tools and drove over there. All of the fluorescent lights in her garage were in bad shape, so I replaced them with new T8 lights to save her money on her electric bill. It didn’t take me long to do the work, but it sure did make a difference. She had been wanting to clean out her garage for a long time and now she could finally see again! As I packed up to leave, she asked me what she owed me, and I explained that as a friend of the family, it was simply my pleasure to be of service. About that time she started to cry, and I mean really truly cry, and all I could think of to do was to give her a hug. As I drove away I felt that same warm, hard to explain feeling rising up inside me once again.

Like I mentioned above, it’s hard to explain that mysterious warm feeling that happens whenever you go out of your way to help someone. But maybe it too is related to lighting… lighting my fire!

Wherever a man turns, he can always find someone who needs him.
~ Albert Schweitzer

Monday, January 29, 2018

Farther To Fall

My wife and I attended the Farmers Open Golf Tournament on Saturday.  It was held at the beautiful Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego and going there brought back a lot of memories for me.

The last time I attended a golf tournament at Torrey Pines was back in 2008. At that time The US Open was being played there and it would be the last time that Tiger Woods would win a major golf tournament. In 2008 Tiger was the best golfer on the planet, setting or breaking records every time he played. He walked tall, and he walked proud, and his gallery of followers were always 20 people deep at every single hole. Tiger wasn’t always friendly to the crowds, the media, or his competition back then. To me, it seemed like he considered himself the greatest athlete on the planet and practically perfect in every way. Little did he know how much things would change in the very near future.

The Tiger Woods we watched at Torrey Pines in 2018 was not the same man we watched in 2008. By that I don’t mean he wasn’t as good a golfer (although it was true since this time he finished in 23rd place.) What I mean is that he didn’t carry himself with total arrogance anymore. He walked a little slower, took time to talk to fans, and actually smiled despite being way down the leader board. Obviously, I don’t know what he was thinking, but it seemed to me like he was truly enjoying the game for the first time in a very long time.

We were perched in the grandstands at the 15th hole most of the day. When Tiger walked up onto the 15th green the crowd gave him a very warm greeting. When the applause died down, a man sitting in the front row said rather loudly, “Welcome back Tiger. The game still needs you.”  I saw Tiger look over and smile at the man and acknowledge his comment. It was a moment of new found humility that made Tiger seem… well… human. And of course we all know that humans are not perfect… and never will be.

And that got me thinking… I don’t know if the game still needs Tiger Woods or not. What I do know is that when we put ourselves above everyone else, it simply means that we have that much farther to fall.

Tiger Woods approaches the 15th Green at Torrey Pines, January 27th, 2018
If only I had a little humility, I would be perfect. 
~ Ted Turner

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Timeless Gift

I set a goal at the beginning of the year to try to figure out what “gifts” I have and how I can best use those gifts to serve others. So last week I wrote about being good at fixing things as a gift, but this week I’ve been super busy and haven’t had time to come up with any new ideas. And then it hit me, “time” is a gift we all wish we had more of. Maybe I can give someone else the gift of time!

It didn’t take long for the opportunity to present itself. On Tuesday, I went to the Post Office to buy stamps. As I walked in, I noticed a sign “Open 8am-4:00pm” and since it was 3:45, I was glad it was still open.  Inside there were two clerks waiting on people and only one person in line. However, there was also a lady who appeared to be working feverishly to get a box ready to ship. She kept glancing out the window, so I thought maybe she had a baby in the car or something. When she was done packing the box, I decided to step out of line and ask her if she would like to go ahead of me. She smiled and said, “Thank you so much”, and explained she parked in the red zone out front so she could keep an eye on her kids in the car and was worried about getting a ticket.

Both Clerk A and Clerk B finished up with their customers at the same time, so the next person in line stepped up to the counter. However, Clerk A stepped away and left my lady friend and I still standing in line. Clerk A then proceeded to go lock the door, apparently so he wouldn’t have to deal with any more customers. He then walked around the lobby area, picking up trash and re-sorting the counter displays, while completing ignoring the fact that there were still two customers in line. Clerk B kept working hard to provide good service to his customer, while the lady and I just kept wondering why Clerk A left us standing there. Eventually, Clerk A finished his “closing preparations” and went back to the counter. The lady in front of me was really stressed out now having stood there for at least an extra 10 minutes waiting for service.

Clerk A finally took care of the lady with the box. As I watched her dash out the door, I was glad I gave her a little bit of my “time”. Unfortunately, Clerk A took that “time” and more away from her.  I admit I was pretty ticked off about it. If any of my employees ever ignored a customer at our Will Call Counter just so they could hurry up closing the doors for the day, they would be closing the door on their day for good!

And that got me thinking… Time is one of the most precious commodities we have. So, if we can’t give or don’t want to give someone else our time… then at the very least, we shouldn’t steal any from them.

He who robs you of your time, steals your greatest treasure.
James L. Basford

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Perfect Intentions

In my first Monday Message of 2018, I stated that I believe our primary job on earth is to “serve others”.  I then went on to say that I wasn’t sure what gifts God has given me, but I would try to figure out what those gifts are, and then find different ways to serve others using those gifts. Well, I thought about it and one of the gifts I have is that I know how to turn a screwdriver! I know that doesn’t sound like much of a gift, but I’ve always been mechanically inclined, and I enjoy fixing things, so over time I’ve developed quite a collection of cool tools. Surely somebody somewhere out there needs something fixed!

Then I received a sign! No, it wasn’t a heaven-sent sign… or maybe it was! I was dropping off some charity items to a thrift store in Laguna Hills that’s run by the South County Outreach. The store is called “Upscale Resale” and as I pulled up to the front of the store, I noticed that their sign was really faded and practically falling off the wall. It looked especially bad because the other businesses in that strip center all had nice new signs. I determined that this must be a sign… (get it!)…and decided right then and there to get a new sign made and install it for them for free.

I went to Fast Signs in Lake Forest and told them about the sign that the South County Outreach needed. It was finished within a week and when I picked it up, I was excited because it looked absolutely perfect. I immediately drove it over to the thrift store and as I pulled up, I realized I had made a stupid mistake. The new sign read, “South County Outreach” instead of “Upscale Resale”. What a dummy! My good intentions were definitely not backed up with good results!

Back to Fast Signs I went. I hate to say it, but I told the lady at Fast Signs a little white lie. When she asked why I came back, I told her that they loved the new sign so much they wanted to order another one, but this time with the name “Upscale Resale” on it. I guess I just didn’t want to admit that I made a mistake.

The new “Upscale Resale” sign was finished within three days. When I picked it up, it looked perfect for sure this time, so I grabbed a ladder and my tools and drove straight over to the thrift store. Wouldn’t you know it, when I took the old plastic sign down off the steel backboard, one of the screws broke off and I couldn’t get it out. That forced me to have to drill new holes but no matter what, I couldn’t hide the old holes and still get the sign perfectly straight. I fought with it for a while and ended up doing the best I could, but it still ended up being off about a 1/4 of an inch. It looked good, but it definitely wasn’t perfect.

And that got me thinking… It’s hard to admit it when we make mistakes. It’s even harder to accept that even when our intentions are perfect, we’re never going to be perfect. But then I realized that we don’t have to be perfect because somebody else already was perfect for us. And that makes perfect sense to me!
There are no perfect people in this world, only perfect intentions.
~ Pen Densham (Robin Hood) 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Time Well Spent

Overall the holiday season was absolutely awesome this year! I have to say that I am really thankful for all the blessings that abound within our family. The only exception is that my wife was sick the entire holiday season. She has been struggling with respiratory problems on and off ever since she had lung surgery back in 2003, but before Christmas week even began, she started having serious breathing issues. Two weeks ago, she got so bad and was struggling so hard to breathe, that she had to call 911 for help.

Wouldn’t you know it, I happened to be at a golf lesson that morning when she collapsed. I felt horrible that I wasn’t with her when this frightening episode happened. Fortunately, the paramedics were able to stabilize her and then I drove her to the doctor’s office where they gave her a new round of medications to try out. It took several more doctor visits and medication trials before she started to improve, but as of yesterday her breathing is almost back to normal.

I felt really bad that I wasn’t with my wife at the time when she needed me most. But I am also super thankful that we have the 911 system in place. I hate to think about what could have happened if we didn’t have paramedics available, and for that matter firefighters, police and military personnel and all the other first responders who have high stress dangerous jobs that force them to sacrifice their own health for the benefit of other human beings. We are lucky to have people on this earth who are totally focused on serving others.

And that got me thinking… I realize it’s not my job to “serve others” from a career standpoint. (Although I do kind of “light up lives” with my lighting business!) But from a biblical standpoint, I truly believe that my primary job here on earth is to serve others using whatever special gifts God gave me. So…What can I do to fulfill that obligation? And… What are those special gifts? I haven’t figured out the answer to either one of those questions yet, but I do know that whatever the answers are, “time” is a major component. Therefore, for the rest of 2018, I plan to set aside time every week to look for ways to serve others. It might be something small that only takes a few minutes of my time, or it might be something that takes me weeks to accomplish. Whatever it is, I have a feeling it will be time well spent!

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as 
if they were going to be dead by midnight. 
Extend to them all the care, kindness and service you can muster. 
Do it with no thought of any reward and your life will never the same again! 
~ Og Mandino

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Time For A Gift

One of the best things about the Christmas Holiday Season is that you get to be with your family and create everlasting memories. But one of the worst things about Christmas… for me anyway… is that I struggle with gift giving.

It’s not that I don’t care or that I don’t want to spend the money. It’s just that I’m not very creative when it comes to gift giving, so I really stress out about it. I always agonize over what is the really cool gift this season that everyone wants, or what cool new tech device is out there, or if I buy clothes I worry about what color or what size to get and then I end up asking the sales clerk, “Can they bring it back if they don’t like it?” I mean, I’m a mess… and I’m not even a hot mess!

I wish it was easy to get a great gift for the people that you love, something that would express the real meaning of Christmas. Shouldn’t there be one special gift, that everyone wants, that doesn’t cost much, and that makes everyone happy? Something fun, interesting, unique and loaded with love. And that’s when it hit me. I remembered how I recently read in the bible how God is always with us. That He will never leave us. Which then reminded me of a poem called, Footprints in the Sand, where Jesus reminds us, “My precious child, I love you and I will never leave you.”

And both of those memories got me thinking… There is a special gift that I can give my family. One that everyone wants, that doesn’t cost much, and yet makes them happy. My time!

"And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and lo the angel of the lord came upon them and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth - peace, good will toward men."

Monday, December 11, 2017

It Was Me!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong and people seem to be always in your way? Well, I had me one of those days last week… Friday was truly a doozy.

Problem number one. I had a lot going on and the first thing I had to do was to drive out to Murrieta to see my Mom who is terminally ill. But before I could even leave the house I noticed that the “Lilac Fire” in North San Diego County had closed Highway 76 and the 15 freeway, which was the route I planned to take.

Problem number two. I decided to take Ortega Highway instead, but 15 miles in I came to screeching halt due to construction. Turns out a section of the highway was collapsing and needed repair, so the delay lasted over 20 minutes. Of course, it seems like a lot longer when you’re in a hurry.

Problem number three. I stopped at my Mom’s old apartment in Murrieta to collect her mail and pick up her cable boxes so that I could return them to the cable company (she won’t be returning to that apartment). But I forgot the keys. I figured the Manager could help, but he was out of the office. Eventually, I tracked down the Maintenance Manager who helped me out, but it took a really long time to track him down.

Problem number four. When I arrived at the Time Warner Cable office, they informed me that my Mom also had a modem that needed to be returned. I didn’t think about that and now I’ll have to make a return trip.

Problem number five. My Mom wanted me to pick up some boxes of See’s Candies, so she could give them out as gifts to people who come to visit her. After standing in a long line, I realized as I went to pay that I had left my wallet in my car. By the time I got my wallet and got back, there were 5 more people ahead of me.

Problem number six. After finally getting back to Orange County, I was running late to pick up my wife at the Nordstrom’s Rack, and of course the parking lot was totally full. After making four laps around the entire lot I finally spotted an elderly man getting into his car. Never in my life have I seen anybody move so slow! This guy took at least a full 5 minutes to back up, going super slow, two feet at a time, constantly checking his mirrors. In fact, he was so slow, and so annoying, that I was tempted to get out of my truck and go back up his car for him. But then again, he wasn’t the one in a hurry, I was.

And that got me thinking… All day long I kept finding myself annoyed at the people and problems in my way. But I realize now the problems were not caused by the people around me. It was me that chose to go Ortega. It was me that left the keys at home. It was me that forgot my wallet, and it was me that was in too big a hurry when other people were taking time to enjoy their day. Realizing “It Was Me” all along made me laugh all the way home, despite the fact that the 5 freeway was of course packed full on a Friday afternoon.

Patience is something you admire in the driver 
behind you and scorn in the one ahead.
~ Mac McCleary