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Monday, July 29, 2013

Pelly Can

I love to run on the beach for several reasons. It’s good exercise with a great view and I often find the most interesting things that only Mother Nature can produce. Not long ago as I jogged along the beach I noticed large brown Pelican flying just inches above the sand instead of the water. Suddenly it dropped to a soft landing on the beach right in front of me and stared out into the ocean. Its mate was out there skimming above the waves searching for fish, but there was something different about this wise old bird who perched himself solidly in the sand.
The pelican is kind of an odd creature. It appears to be rather ugly and strange looking as it sits still, perhaps even a bit useless. But when a Pelican takes flight they are absolutely breathtaking as they skim silently along the surface of the ocean, then soar high in the sky, only to dive down at extreme speed scooping up one fish after another. Their beaks are actually three times larger than their stomachs enabling a mother Pelican to store fish in her beak in order to feed her young when food supplies run short. But mother Pelicans don’t stop there. If they run out of food and their chicks are hungry, they will tear out their own chest muscles to feed their young. In fact both male and female Pelicans have been known to pierce their own side with their beak and break veins in order to feed blood to a sick baby chick. For that reason, the Pelican became an obvious symbol for Christ and is even used in the coat of arms for places like Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. (Here’s a thought…if a Pelly can be a symbol for Christ…maybe we can be too!)

I don’t know why this particular Pelly chose to land right by me, but as I walked up close to him he looked me straight in the eye. It almost felt like he was trying to tell me something. Obviously Pelicans can’t talk, but this wise old bird was definitely standing there at that exact moment for a reason. I kept thinking about that Pelly and his strange behavior for days.
Then it came to me….Sometimes things that appear to be useless can actually be quite valuable when put in motion! After talking with my wife we realized that ever since we moved to our small beach cottage we have been storing a huge amount of furniture and household items in a large mini-storage unit. All those things have been sitting there absolutely useless collecting dust, and since we know we are going to keep living at the beach for at least another year or two, we decided to give it all away. It took several truck loads and a lot of “motion and emotion” but as of this Friday our mini-storage is now completely empty but our hearts are really full. (And I think we made a whole lot of family and friends very happy as well!)
I didn't get his name....but I did get his message!
Great opportunities to help others seldom come,
but small ones surround us every day.   
                                                                  ~ Sally Koch                                                            

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beauty and The Beach

Yesterday morning my wife and I went for our usual jog down the beach. It was very early but already becoming a beautiful morning. The sky overhead was painted with soft clouds, the sand was sparkling white and the water was a beautiful deep blue color as Pelicans flew inches above the waves searching for their breakfast. We smiled at each other just taking in the beauty of it all.

The beach was deserted for the first mile but then we came upon a small group of people. They were all dressed in black matching wetsuits wearing colorful bathing caps and they looked like they were part of some kind of “Swim Club”. But as the group began walking down to the water’s edge, we noticed they were carrying one of their members. When we spotted the empty wheelchair up on shore, we realized what they were doing.

At that moment we both knew we were witnessing something even more beautiful than the beach.

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.  And I will not let what I
cannot do interfere with what I can do. 
                                              ~ Edward Everett Hale                                                             

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Far Can You Go?

I like to challenge myself…. So sometimes I do really stupid stuff. Last Tuesday was no exception.  
I take care of the lighting system for the “Battle Mountain Cross” in San Diego. I installed the lighting system 25 years ago and have been maintaining it ever since. But this year, I wanted to upgrade the system, so I decided to install four new heavy duty LED Spotlights that will save energy, increase the brightness of the Cross and last up to 10 years. It was a great idea, but the problem was getting the equipment and tools up the mountain. There are no roads, so you have to hike and carry everything by hand. Here’s the stupid part…I had plenty of people volunteer to help me but I decided at the spur of the moment Tuesday morning (since I had to go to San Diego on business anyway) to try to install two of the fixtures by myself.
Halfway up the mountain with a backpack full of tools and dragging a dolly with two 40lb fixtures over ruts and rocks, I nearly gave up. It was a really hot day so my legs were cramping, my arms were aching and about three quarters the way up I was sweating so profusely I thought I was going to lose my lunch right there on the trail. I sat down on a rock for over 10 minutes and thought about what kind of idiot would try to do this by himself. But then I looked up the mountain and caught a glimpse of the cross and was instantly reminded of how important that Cross is to me and how it changed my life so dramatically back in 1988.
I eventually got off my butt and continued up the mountain. The last section is the steepest and it was really difficult to maneuver the dolly but I finally made it to the top. I threw off my backpack and downed a full bottle of water (which was another stupid move because I only brought one bottle of water). I spent the next hour removing the old lights, cleaning 25 years’ worth of dirt and dead bugs out of the ground vault and installing the new fixtures. I was really excited about putting in the new lights and couldn’t wait to see the results at night.
Out with the old...and in with the new!

Here’s the kicker…I finished up with the new lights and then I realized that I now had to haul the old light fixtures back down the steep mountain. So I strapped them to my dolly and about halfway down, wouldn’t you know it, a wheel broke off. I just stopped and laughed at my circumstances. My shirt was torn, I was covered in sweat and my body was more exhausted than I have ever been in my life, and I still had to somehow get all that equipment down the mountain. When I finally made it down the mountain there was a gardener working in the front yard of one of the homes at the base of the trail. He just looked at me and laughed and said something like, “Que pasa amigo?” He was probably thinking something more like, “Tu es muy loco, amigo!”
Looking back I know I shouldn’t have taken such a risk. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt or at my age have a heart attack, but like I said at the beginning of this story…I love a challenge. And the challenge I love the most…. is honoring God in everything that I do.
The Cross on top of Battle Mountain

Only those who risk going too far can
possibly find out how far they can go. 
                       ~ T. S. Eliot


Monday, July 8, 2013

The Great Sadness

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my wife losing her wedding ring. That was a difficult situation at the time and it made my wife really sad. But then six months later, to have it pop up in the glove box of my truck, brought us both a great deal of joy. It was an unexpected loss followed up by an awesome reward! That happens a lot in life, however sometimes the loss can be far greater than just a piece of jewelry.
We have been living at our small beach house now for exactly one year. It isn’t really a house, it’s a duplex and up until a few weeks ago we didn’t have a neighbor in the other unit. Then Bill moved in and while it was nice to have the whole place to ourselves, we are actually really happy to have such a great guy living next door. Bill is a single Dad, super friendly and the type of person who is always going out of his way to help others. He owns his own business and because he travels a lot (and because he has a good heart) he often allows his friends and business partners to stay at his beach house when he is gone.
On Sunday we met one of Bill’s partners and his wife who are staying at his house this week. They have three small children, one of which is adopted, and another baby on the way. So they obviously love children. The sad story that Bill shared with us is that they lost their first baby when it was only 8 weeks old. Nothing could be more painful than to have to bury a child. Bill also explained that…to this day…his partner’s wife was having a really hard time dealing with the loss and that it has severely undermined her faith in God. I don’t know these people very well, but I can certainly understand how suffering such a loss would make one question God’s love. It’s a question that I have always struggled to understand, until I read a book called “The Shack”.

“The Shack” is the story of a loving father, Mac, whose young daughter was murdered. Her body was never found but her blood and clothes were found in a remote rural shack. Mac blamed himself for not being there to protect her and he was angry at God for not protecting her as well. He was depressed, bitter and engulfed with what he called “the great sadness” for many years…. until one day when he returned to the shack. There he met and spoke with God, one on one, who lovingly explained to him why bad things happen.

God told Mac, “I don’t make bad things happen and I don’t punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it. The problem for most people is that they try to make sense of the world based on a very small and incomplete picture of reality. It’s like looking at life through a tiny knothole of hurt and pain, seeing pain and death as ultimate evils and God as the ultimate betrayer and untrustworthy. The real underlying flaw with that thought process is that you don’t realize I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything…the means, the end and all the processes of our lives…is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not understand what I am doing, you would trust me. But you cannot produce trust just as you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. And Mac, trust me…. you are truly loved.”

I have had some really bad things happen in my life as well. And I suppose I have even questioned God’ goodness myself at times. But ultimately I believe that God is good and that while bad things may happen sometimes, in the end there will be an awesome reward!

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.
                                  ~ Helen Keller


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The 100 Club

I have been blessed to be able to own my own business for over 30 years. One of the most important things I’ve learned over that long period of time is the value of great customer service.
I’m not talking about “reactive customer service”, which is where you solve a problem after it happens. I’m talking about “pro-active customer service”, the kind where you constantly look for ways to improve your service and actively provide greater benefits to your customers. For example, all of our employees carry small embossed note cards with them. They are instructed to hand write “Thank you” notes to customers and/or ask, “What can we do to improve our service to you?” Some of the best ideas to help us grow our business have come from our customers. But if we didn’t pro-actively seek out those ideas we would never learn and never grow. Therefore I have a habit of noticing good (and bad) customer service everywhere I go.
Here’s an example. This past weekend my wife and I drove up north to visit our daughter. We always stay at the same Hotel because they normally provide great customer service and sure enough the valet greeted us by name as we drove in, gave us a huge smile and lots of attention. However, from that point on the service went quickly downhill. Every aspect of their service was below average, from dirty towels in our room, to waiters gone missing, to nobody answering at the front desk. We may never return and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Hotel owners had in mind.
After we got home I kept thinking about the one positive experience we had. There was that young valet who went out of his way to provide great customer service and truly appeared to enjoy it. So I decided to take one of our company note cards and write a thank you letter to that young man (and slip a gift card into it). You can call it an ROK (random act of kindness) but why not reward people who make our lives better. For that matter, it doesn’t take a gift card…just letting people know you appreciate them will usually brighten their day tremendously. Why? Because it just doesn’t happen often enough.
So here’s my idea. I’m starting The 100 Club and I would like you to join me. A member of this club is someone who makes a pro-active effort at least twice per week all year long to brighten someone else’s day. It might be a stranger or it might be a friend. It can be a nice email or just a brief text message asking, “How u doing? It could be a phone call to a distant relative or a generous tip to the waiter at your favorite restaurant. But whatever it is, great customer service (and kindness) doesn’t have to happen only at work. Just think about it….doing something nice for someone else twice a week for a year would be over 100 ROK’s! Maybe if we all did that, it would rub off on people and the world would be a better place!

When God’s love impacts our lives, it completely changes
us so that selfishness turns to generosity. 
                                                    ~ Max Lucado