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Monday, March 27, 2017

A Way of Life

Do you ever get the feeling that somebody is trying to tell you something? Like somebody up above is sending you a message? Sometimes I get that feeling, but unfortunately it can take me a while to catch on.

I recently played in a golf tournament to raise money for the Fullerton College Baseball Team. My Halo Baseball Club shares the same field, so a lot of us ballplayers sign up to support this cause. I had the privilege of playing with one of my teammates, Danny, who has been a close friend of mine for 10 years. I have always admired Danny because he is such a great baseball player, but more importantly because he is such a great Christian guy. Humble and kind are the best words I can use to describe him. He never brings up the fact that he has won an MSBL World Series Ring, but instead focuses on finding ways to praise his teammates. Me, on the other hand, I almost always find some way to bring up the story of how I won a World Series Ring, even if the people listening don’t even like baseball. Sure, I mention how practice and prayer were the keys to my success, but humility is obviously not my strong point.

Last week I was searching for some corporate books at my office when I came across something unusual, a military sword and picture. I had forgotten that I those items were at my office and I’m not even sure why I brought them there. But the picture of my Dad in his USMC dress white uniform and his beautiful military sword brought back a flood of memories. My Dad was the humblest, kindest person I have ever known. Even though he won the Navy/Marine Corps Medal of Valor, he never once talked about it, preferring to listen to others and/or give them the shirt off his back if they needed it.

On Friday I received Sports Illustrated in the mail with a picture of Mike Trout on the cover. Mike is the best player on the LA Angels and the best player in all of baseball. In his first five years, he has finished 1st or 2nd in the MVP voting every single year. Nobody else has ever even come close. But Mike doesn’t talk about that fact, instead he takes the time to sign hundreds of autographs before and after every game. He doesn’t seek the spotlight and in fact, he declined to talk about himself in the Sports Illustrated article, so the writers had to get most of their information for the story from scouts and coaches. In 2015 Mike heard about a family that had a fire in their house at Christmastime. On his own he purchased gifts for them and dropped them by their house, even though they were strangers. Had the family not said anything about it, nobody would have ever known. Mike low-keyed it like he always does.  

After thinking about these three events, it began to dawn on me that somebody was sending me a message about humility and kindness. So I looked up the meaning of those words in the original Hebrew language and discovered that those words carried an added idea that the English words don’t. They both refer to an act of grace and a person who is “useful”. Apparently, humility and kindness are much more than adjectives. For some people, they are a way of life!
Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself, but that you think of yourself less.
 ~ Max Lucado

Monday, March 20, 2017

Karma Chain

Maybe I’m different than a lot of guys, but I actually like going to the grocery store sometimes. I know it can be a pain in the butt but I enjoy helping my wife and I also enjoy picking out great snacks to eat during the week. In fact, I find going to the grocery store can be an enlightening experience because there are all types of people there, for all different types of reasons, forming a basic microcosm of society in general.

Last week I had to go to the Ralphs in San Clemente by myself and as I drove there I listened to the news on the radio. Most of it was bad. Actually, all of it was bad, including robberies in Beverly Hills, dui accidents that injured people, and the innocent death of a child hit by a stray bullet. It made we wonder how people can be so heartless. I was glad to get to the store and not have to listen to the news anymore. When I was ready to check out I had a lot of items in my shopping cart and there was an older lady coming up behind me with only a few items, so I offered to let her go in front of me. She nodded her head and mumbled something but I couldn’t understand her. As she stepped in front of me I noticed that her clothes were dirty and her hair was a mess and that she kept mumbling to herself as she sat her basket down. It was obvious that she was a homeless person and not doing very well.

When the cashier asked her to pay, the homeless lady fumbled with several credit cards but couldn’t get any to work. This went on for about 5 minutes but the cashier was patient and politely kept telling her that her credit cards didn’t work. After about 10 minutes the cashier said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got you covered”. The elderly lady said thank you several times, and then kept on mumbling as she grabbed her bag and shuffled out the door.

When I was checking out I told the cashier that what she did was really nice and I asked her how much the bill was. The cashier said, “It was only $20.00. I’ve seen her around before and I guess I just kind of feel bad for her.” The cashier also said, “Maybe it will bring me some good Karma.” When she finished checking me out, I handed her a $10.00 bill and said, “Let me split it with you. I wouldn’t mind having some of that Karma stuff myself.” The cashier laughed and said that was nice of me and accepted my help. As the bag boy finished putting my groceries in my cart, I heard the lady behind me say, “Here’s another $10.00. I want a piece of that Karma too.” I had to laugh at the chain reaction going on and I’m pretty sure I smiled to myself all the way home as I listened to music… instead of the news!

By the way, if you look up the definition of Karma, you will find it is a Buddhist belief that means a person’s actions and conduct can influence their destiny. Well, I’m not Buddhist, but maybe they should modify the meaning to include… A person’s actions and conduct can also influence those around them!
How people treat you is their Karma. How you react, is yours.
~ Wayne Dyer 

Monday, March 13, 2017

God's Garden

I have a hard-working friend who owns her own Hair Salon. I have been going to her for years because I really like the way she cuts my hair, but I also go to her because over the years we’ve developed a close friendship. Hairdressers are in a unique profession because if they do their job well, they can get you to relax, which in turn opens you up for conversation. I think my hairdresser probably knows more about me than most of my family and I have made it a point to get to know a lot about her as well.

One of the things I know about her is that she is a Christian and the other thing I know about her is that she is on her feet 10-12 hours a day. She is also the sole support of her family and at nearly 60 years of age, she gets really tired and stressed out at times. She told me the thing she loves the most, the thing that relaxes her and relieves her stress the best, is her garden. Apparently, she has this large plot of land in the back of her property where she grows all types of awesome fruits and vegetables. In fact, last year she won dozens of blue ribbons at the Orange County Fair for her lush and colorful produce.

But this year has been especially difficult for her and for her garden. She is trying to grow her business, so she leased a larger space and hired more people to assist with the salon. The new people haven’t worked out so well but she still has to pay rent. So she has been working even more than normal. In addition to a lack of time, with all the rain and storms we’ve had this year she hasn’t been able to tend to her garden. For the past several months she hasn’t gone out back and just assumed the storms had destroyed her precious plants.

Last week she finally got the time and the nerve to go survey the damage. What she found was that her formerly perfect plot of land was now overwhelmed with enormous weeds, some towering over 4’ in the air. It was disheartening to say the least, but she said she stopped, took a deep breath, and decided to tackle it. As she started to pull the enormous weeds at the perimeter of the garden, an amazing site began to unfold. The fruits and vegetables were not washed away, nor were they strangled by the weeds. As a matter of fact, they were in perfect condition. It was almost as if the weeds had formed a protective blanket around her vibrant little green and red babies, protecting them from the wind and rain. She told me she couldn’t believe what she was saw. By the time she was done, her garden looked like it was going to yield her best crop ever.

Maybe when you spend so much time on your feet, you enjoy gardening because you get to be on your knees for a change. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that when she was done cleaning up her garden she stayed on her knees for a very long time… thankful for the help she received… without even asking! 
The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can always dig for him there.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Monday, March 6, 2017

Trust Factor

If you’re like me, you’ve probably developed friendships over the years that have enriched your life and brought you a significant amount of happiness. However, if you’re like me, you’ve probably also had some of those friends betray your friendship and break your trust. It’s so sad when it happens because relationships are built on trust, and when that trust is broken, it can be devastating and confusing. I guess if we chose to never trust anyone, then we wouldn’t have to worry about it. But then again, life sure would be lonely. So it’s a tough question. One that was brought to my attention recently by a wounded sea duck.

My wife and I got home early last Thursday and decided to sit out on our beach and enjoy the sunset. As we were talking, my wife suddenly bolted upright in her chair and asked me, “What the heck is that?” I turned towards the ocean and immediately saw a large red-billed Cormorant (sea duck) that had climbed up to our elevated beach area and was parading slowly by in front of us, only a few feet away. It was the weirdest thing because birds are always so skittish of people. But this brave duck purposely climbed up a steep embankment of sand just so he could walk by in front of us. Then I noticed it. He had a length of fishing line caught in his wing with weights hanging from it. The other end was stuck in his belly preventing him from moving his wing and obviously making it impossible to fly.

The Cormorant kept walking and when a neighbor’s dog barked he scrambled down closer to the water. My wife suggested calling animal control for help, but the first problem would be to catch him. So with my brilliant mind I decided to get a sheet out of our linen closet and go after him, hoping to throw it over him like a net. I chased that fellow for over a mile, but every time I got close, he ran into the water. At one point, I dropped my shoes and phone on the sand and went wading in after him. He dove under the water for about a minute and I couldn’t find him… until suddenly he popped up right between my legs! It scared the crap out of both of us. I was so startled I failed to throw the sheet at him and the wounded duck scrambled even farther out into the water. I eventually gave up trying to help him because it was obvious he was never going to trust me enough to get close to him. I felt so sorry for him because I knew I could cut the fishing line in a few seconds and free him, but his natural instincts and lack of trust kept him away.

Maybe human beings and animals are not that different after all. Maybe we both have a natural instinct to distrust each other as a means of self-preservation, but it shouldn’t be that way. The only way we are ever going to find happiness and love is to embrace the trust factor… and truly go for it. I know that wounded red-billed sea duck has probably passed away by now, but he left an indelible impression on me. He reminded me that we are never so vulnerable as when we trust someone, but paradoxically, if don’t allow ourselves to trust, then we will never find love or happiness.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody… is to trust them.
    ~ Ernest Hemingway