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Heroic

Having lived in Florida most of my life, it is not uncommon when driving along to see a turtle lumbering across a busy road. I have always been impressed when I see a car pulled aside, flashers on and an individual heroically picking up the gentle creature taking it to safety in a nearby ditch or field. In all of my years I have not come across a scenario where I was the “First Responder” who would save the day for the distressed reptile.

Finally a few weeks back I was driving down a  narrow rural road, it was a beautiful day and as I looked ahead I saw a shape in the distance on the other side of the road. At first I could not tell what it was, and thought it was debris from a fender bender, but as I got closer, I realized it was a large turtle slowly crossing the road and there was a car moving swiftly in its direction.

This was my chance to be heroic. I put my car into park put on my flashers and jumped out waving to the oncoming car. Yes, it was dangerous, but I was the “First Responder” and finally I was going to get to save the day. I ran up to my creature in distress and as I drew closer, I realized it was a large turtle, roughly the size of a small dutch oven. I had to move swiftly because the oncoming car drew nearer and I was concerned that a car coming in my lane might not see my flashers or me. This turtle was so big, I wondered how heavy he would be as I prepared to scoop him up in my arms and whisk him away to safety.

But then I came right up next to him, and stopped dead in my tracks with my jaw dropping to the asphalt. This adorable turtle I was heroically going to save, had a hideous head and a ferocious looking face, his legs and tail were spiked like a dinosaur. It was a very large Alligator Snapping Turtle. Ugh!!! It was hideous ugly and looked fierce. So now   my excitement over rescuing this creature waned and I instantly considered leaving it be and jumping in my car and heading homeward. But I knew that if I did not act fast, the oncoming car was sure to run right over it.

I could not pick it up, it was so big and so angry, that it would have made a snack out of my fingers, so I used my foot to scoot it along. The prehistoric creature kept rearing up its ugly head in protest and digging in his  spiked feet and legs, This really was not what I had in mind as my first rescue…  There I was scooting along this angry and resistant Alligator Snapping Turtle, and all I can think of now is, “I sure hope nobody hits my car for this.”  I moved the prehistoric looking creature to safety, with absolutely no assistance or appreciation from him.

I hopped into the car and headed on my way, pondering over the fact that I was much more excited about the idea of being a hero and saving a cute helpless turtle.  Sadly, when reality occurred and the creature that needed my help was cantankerous, and even possibly dangerous, it changed the prospective ROI (Return On Investment) for me. There was much less glory in this rescue.   I almost turned away and let the turtle take its chances with the oncoming car, simply because I did not feel comfortable  based on its looks and attitude. I am not proud of that.

I thought about those people who cross my path in daily settings, such as work, neighborhood, church, check out lines, behind the wheel,etc. Some people can be challenging and cantankerous, and I find that my tendency is to avoid them at all cost. Jesus, came into a world full of complicated and cantankerous people, lumbering in the path of danger. He made Himself completely available to touch, heal and offer Words of Life and Love and the actual path for eternal rescue. Not once did He waiver or change His course and purpose for being here. He came to do His Father’s Will, to pay the price on the cross for our cantankerous  and life threatening/condemning sins . He didn’t allow our unappreciative attitudes, or our snapping protests and our stubborn wills that cause us to dig in and resist His act of selfless love and heroism to keep Him from Heroically offering the Rescue. He loves us, because we are His creation and He longs to bring us into  safety and so much more.

The day that I saved that hideous creature, I learned that Alligator Snapping Turtles are endangered species and in spite of his resistance and ugly demeanor he needed to be saved and there was no way he was going to outmaneuver that oncoming car on his own…..

At the end of the day I didn’t feel heroic, but rather humbled instead….

Happy Feet

I had the opportunity to see the Gin Blossoms 25th Anniversary Tour of “New Miserable Experience”. The event was in a small theater venue and our seats were up front but off to the side. It was a small enough venue that we were within 2 steps of the stage, and the band was excellent! Time has not taken away from their talent, and it is always refreshing to see a band that has managed to maintain their original integrity and skill.

The majority of the crowd appeared to be within my age range or older, but there were some younger fans scattered amongst the gray hair and soft middles. There were definitely some characters and as fate would have it, my seat was right in line with one of the security guards for the evening. He was at least 6’3 and held a menacing demeanor. My girlfriend, who has been to this venue several times, whispered to me, “Bummer, that guy takes his job so seriously, we will never be able to get up and walk the 4 feet to the stage without him sternly sending us back to our assigned  seats.”

I watched as he stood there, arms folded and glaring at the crowd. As the band entered the stage, people around us stood, some moved forward to take pictures and as my friend had suggested, “Dudley Do Right”, moved in swiftly and sharply pointing people back to their place. With the exception of a few V.I.P. guests seated immediately in front of the band, most of the crowd remained seated , hoping to avoid the glare or wrath of the zealot security guard.

His presence was so impacting that the lead singer finally spoke up and told the crowd that “This is a rock concert, not a movie, stand up and join us at the stage.” Even after that invitation, only a few people came forward and took some pics, quickly returning to their seats and those seated in the center aisles sheepishly began to stand and clap. But there I sat with “Dudley” 3 feet in front of me. I could spy the corner of the stage that I wanted to go to, but I had to traverse right past him and even then I would be shoulder to shoulder with him.

I have a reputation for having a dance style like the character “Elaine” from Seinfeld. All I could think of was that if I actually got the courage to jump up and move to the stage corner with my eclectic dance moves, “Dudley” would have an elbow in his eye and I would be escorted out of the building. So I sat there in my seat watching this amazing band , tentatively clapping my hands and my feet were shuffling with stilted energy.

If you have ever seen the movie “Happy Feet”, it is a movie about a little penguin who is different than the others. While the other penguins all sing angelically and in order, “Happy Feet” moves convulsively in place when he hears music, as he attempts to suppress his natural response to the music.  It is a sweet movie, if you haven’t seen it. So I sat convulsively moving in my seat and although I enjoyed the band, it all felt awkward, and I thought this isn’t quite how I pictured this experience in my head as I drove to the concert earlier that evening.

Then something happened, a young man who was probably in his twenties suddenly stormed the stage and leaped up at the feet of the lead guitarist. “Dudley” was on it and that poor young man was dragged off swiftly and escorted out by 2 security guards and a police man. I have a feeling that he had a rough night, and I hope that he is okay and that he isn’t charged too severely for his “zealous” response to the evening. The thing is, that moment changed the rest of the evening. I realized that I didn’t have to sit convulsively in my seat in a stoical state. (Yes, I am aware that this statement is an oxymoron, but if you knew me, you would understand .)

I jumped to my feet and did my best “Elaine” dance and even moved to the corner stage. I even got to “High Five” the lead singer, Robin Wilson.”Dudley” was definitely within my elbow shot, but thankfully, there were no black eyes on either of our part. The concert was excellent, The Gin Blossoms wrapped it up with an awesome tribute song to Tom Petty, which of course made me even more impressed with the evening.

Social etiquette can be so complicated, there is a spectrum within which we all try to fit. For some it is easier than others, and in some cases there are extremes that in all truth for the sake and safety of the crowd, we need to respectfully curb. The young man who stormed the stage created a genuine safety risk for himself ( highly inebriated) and for the band and other concert goers. I understand why there is a need to keep some degree of order, hence “Dudley”.

The rest of the evening, “Dudley” was much more relaxed and less intense towards the crowd. He only approached people to disperse if they lingered too long in areas that had potential to create a hazard risk. I had a great time, and I actually wonder if perhaps “Dudley” did as well. He wasn’t all that bad after all….

Bold, Barefoot and Brilliant!!!!

So a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a Tom Petty Tribute Concert at Skipper’s Smokehouse (If you have never been, you must go to Skipper’s, nothing else like it on the planet). I went with one of my very best friends from high school, back in the day, we were fans of Tom and his rebel band the Heart Breakers and it was nostalgic to attend this event together.

There were bands playing tribute songs beginning at 4 p.m. and going nonstop until past 10 p.m. It was fun to see so many band members of a wide range of ages and genre playing Tom’s songs with such verve… Of course none could outperform Mr. Petty himself, but they honored him well.

One of the band leaders was very young, most likely in his mid twenties. He was good looking, like a younger version of Johnny Depp, and he was dressed brilliantly and had amazing energy and passion. I was impressed, and yet as he sang, I felt as though the performance was just that, a performance. I am sure that this young man has a great future ahead of him, and he definitely has the “It” factor that seems so important in Hollywood and/or Nashville.

There was a different band however, that truly caught my eye. As they came out to set up, the Lead singer and guitar player stepped on stage, barefoot and in a white t-shirt and worn out old jeans. He was older, probably my age, which is to say that he most likely was playing in a band about the time my friend and i were in high school or college.

My girlfriend said,  “He looks like Luke Perry.” and  my reply was “Yeah, Luke Perry after many rough years on the road.”  You see this man was handsome, but he also bore the look of someone who had been through a few more life experiences than the Johnny Depp lookalike.

When the band (Sonic Stew) began to play, it sounded good, but something was off. For a brief bit of time, they seemed to struggle with coming together  with the right sound. That is when I saw something amazing happen. This Barefoot Lead Singer, went over to the Base Player and he began to listen to the cords and essentially lead him into an incredible synchrony. What started out as a sound that was flat and off, turned into one of the best combinations and performances of the evening.

This Barefoot Leader, remained calm, never lost focus, kept smiling throughout and worked with the band to turn the performance into a memorable tribute. At one point he looked my way, and I saw in his eyes calm confidence and sheer joy. I know that Tom P. was honored that evening, and I left that concert impressed with the reminder that First Impressions are important, but be very careful not to put all of your expectations and assumptions in them. You might just miss the best performance of the night….

I do not know the name of the Barefoot, Bold and Brilliant Leader of Sonic Stew, but that evening was a fun hands on expression of Leadership at it’s Best. Sadly, I do not actually see much of that from Leaders in the corporate setting. Many talk a good talk, dress brilliantly and have energy and passion, but the confident focus and genuine passion and leading by example such as the Barefoot Leader exhibited , is far and few between.

Tom Petty wrote and performed many brilliant songs, but the one that comes to mind as I ponder this recent tribute event is “Saving Grace”. The lyrics are so solid and no doubt Mr. Petty was searching as we all are. There was another Barefoot/Sandaled Leader many years ago, and without Jesus, there would be no soul searching Saving Grace.

“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-10

“Happy”

I don’t watch much television, but there is a quirky show on Public Television called
Doc Martin. It takes place in a sleepy seaside English Village , Port Isaac.  The main character is a complex man who is diagnosed with OCD, Attachment Disorder and a myriad of other spectrum issues that leave him “flat” in his human interactions.

His character is married with a child, but due to his lack of emotional attachment, his wife considers divorce. There is a scene where Doc Martin is with a therapist and with great difficulty explains that he is there because he wants to save his marriage, and he wants his wife to be “Happy”. The therapist asks him if he would like to be “Happy”, and he flatly answers that he just doesn’t operate with that realm of emotion or expression. How sad.

It seems that “Happiness” is one of the primary reasons that sales and marketing thrive. The companies want to convince us that we have a problem and they have the solution, and if we purchase the solution, we will be “Happy”. Of course in this scenario, the “Happy” bucket has a hole in it and therefore the companies continue to sell and market newer and improved ways to be “Happy” ,at a price of course.

I was in London years ago and after 10 wonderful days, I was rushing through Heathrow Airport to head home. A vendor caught my eye with her wares and I stopped to look at some beautiful gold jewelry. I noticed a necklace, it was very simple and understated, and it had a Chinese symbol on the charm. I asked the woman what it meant and she beamed as she said “Happiness”. I smiled, purchased the necklace and proceeded to place “Happiness”  around my neck.

It would be great if it were that easy, just put it on like a charm. I confess that I have relied too heavily on my circumstances and relationship status to measure my “Happiness” level. Of course there are times when it soars under this system, but there are times where it plunges as well and if I mapped it out according to those standards, my “Happiness” meter would look like an abnormal EKG.

I believe that true “Happiness” must be stamped on our heart and our head. It is a benefit that swells from the peace and joy of the Lord. Psalm 144:15 says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”  That is lasting and that is what I desire, but I can still get caught up in my circumstances and forget this truth at times. May I never forget the true source of “Happiness”.

Besides, I don’t truly know what that symbol on my necklace is…..I don’t read or speak Chinese:)

The Richest ….

It has been quite a while since my last post. Many changes occurring in life, which really just means life is as it always is, ever evolving. I spent some time this past week with some very dear friends and it made me think of a phrase that a particularly special friend says to me occasionally, “You’re the richest woman I know.”  If wealth were measured in terms of valuable relationships and the quality of the people in my life, then I will have to concur that I am  indeed rich, regardless of the condition of my bank statement.

I walk daily with the Lord and feel sure in His Loving presence and guidance. I have sons that honor and love me. It  leaves me beaming with pride for the men that they are and continue to grow into, as God directs their paths. I have numerous friends, all of whom have loved me generously through time, laughter, tears and toil. I have siblings, whom although so very different from me, are always there and have my back if life gets too complicated. My 86 year old mother, has the sweetest heart and so much wisdom to impart as number 9 of 11 children raised during the Depression.

Even though  I am grateful to learn that the statistics at present show a positive trend for our nation’s economy, I know many individuals who are still struggling financially.  Living in the American Culture can add to the pressure, since the things we take for granted are often luxuries in other societies. I am thankful for the safe warm place that I and my family reside in. I am thankful that I have a car that is getting closer to 200,000 miles, but runs like a charm. I am thankful for my own health, and that of my family. I am so thankful for the family and friends that God has abundantly Blessed me with.

Matthew 6:33-34 says “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV Bible). And I will add to this, that God is Always Good, no matter what the trouble of the day brings.

What  makes you rich????

From Soaring to Sensing…..

A while back our county was bracing for a possible hurricane. The days prior to anticipated landfall were calm and beautiful, and then the day before the anticipated event, the clouds and rains came in drenching bucketfuls.

Being a Florida Native, I had my bare minimum hurricane supply intact, and headed to work in the relentless rain. My job is in a location with an expanse of space and acres, and it is not unusual to see some birds of prey when I step out to stretch my legs during a break.

This particularly dreary morning as I prepared to turn towards my building, I saw a large majestic Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on a fence post, only 4 feet from the ground. The rain was steady and heavy and I looked at this bird of prey, as she sat in the pouring rain. She looked past me, as if to ignore my presence, and simply sat in the pouring rain.

I thought this was odd, because although I had seen Red-Shouldered Hawks in the area before, they were always perched high looking for prey, or soaring above as if securing their area. This hawk just sat on a low fence post in the rain. How strange I thought, but then I pulled up to my parking spot and got busy with my workday.

Only a few hours after arriving at work, I headed to my car to make a trip to one of our neighboring administrative offices, the rain was still pouring steadily in buckets, and much to my surprise, the hawk was still sitting in the drenching rain. I drove past and thought how weird.

When I was returning to my office, I slowly drove near the area where the hawk was perched, trying to see if it was injured or sick, or if there might be a nest nearby. The area that the hawk was perched in was not typical for the area where I would see them searching for prey, so the whole thing left me concerned and perplexed. The hawk looked at me in my car, as if annoyed.

I parked my car in my spot, donned my rain slicker and walked out to the fence post area. I was certain that something was wrong with this beautiful bird and I had to find out why it was not behaving the way I had always seen these beautiful creatures behave. I slowly approached in pouring rain, I was shocked at how close I was able to get, I was within 8-10 feet of the perch.

There I stood in the pouring rain staring at this large majestic hawk, staring back at me. I needed to understand what was wrong so that I could help this creature. The hawk stared back at me in great annoyance, but did not move. More rain, so I went back to my office, wondering if I should call Wildlife  Rescue. I was determined to help this majestic creature out, it was not itself.

More hours pass, this time I am so curious that I head out with my slicker during a break, just to see if the hawk was still there. By now 6 hours have passed and the rain is still pouring down, and there the hawk remained , so I drew in my breath and went closer,closer, until finally I was within 5 feet or so from the post looking the hawk squarely in the eye.

I confess I spoke to the hawk ( I know, weirdo…), but I asked her “What is wrong?”. This time, she looked straight at me and with a very annoyed movement, she went to a nearby fence post and glared at me. There we were in a standoff in the pouring rain. She must have realized that I was not leaving, so she hopped to the ground clawed at it as if to pretend that she was foraging for food, she looked up at me as if to say “There, is that good enough for you?”, then she flew up to a nearby lamp post.

I was so relieved that she flew higher, my mission was accomplished, she was healthy enough to fly or forage if needed. I had ensured her safety in the midst of a pending storm and danger, I saved the day and went back to my office to dry off and accomplish less heroic but nonetheless important work.

Weeks later, I was outside of my office and it was a beautiful day. nearby high up on a power line, I saw the beautiful Red-Shouldered Hawk. She saw me and moved to a spot closer on the pole and then she began to make this loud screeching sound, the whole time looking my way. I saw a smaller hawk on another nearby pole. This screeching went on for some time, and she did not move from the pole near me. I looked with delight and wonder at these majestic creatures.

Then the thought occurred to me….that hawk was telling the other hawk what an annoying and obnoxious creature I was. She was letting me know in no uncertain terms that she was a capable hawk wired by God to behave as a Red-Shouldered Hawk in any and every circumstance. When a dangerous hurricane is coming, hawks don’t soar or search for prey, they get low and ride it out so that they may soar and search for prey another. day.

I was so caught up in concern and compassion and determination to figure out what was wrong with the hawk in order to save it and save the day. The hawk just wanted me to leave it alone to be the hawk that God created and equipped it to be, even in a dangerous storm. How many times, I wonder, do I try  to observe and query and figure out how to help another  when I am certain I know how to help them or rescue them from pending danger, and yet, in truth, I have not understood that they are in a storm,(we all find ourselves in those at one time or another), but they are equipped to move through it.

Sometimes my assumptions are based on misunderstanding, wrong expectations, or simply my discomfort at another’s uncomfortable circumstance. What are my true motives when I want to behave with compassion or to assist? Am I just trying to make myself feel better, because I am more comfortable when they are acting in a way that feels more normal and safe for me? Of course there are times when others, both humans and creatures, truly need assistance, but I wonder if too many times, I try to rescue more for my own sensitivity’s sake than for theirs? hmmmmmmm…………..

 

 

 

From the Beach to the Barn…Sand to Sawdust…

Not every weekend involves a walk on the beach,  whenever possible I do seek the sand and sun, but Florida has much more to offer and explore. If you have ever  heard of the term Florida Cracker, you may not be aware that it  has a strong agricultural history and livestock has played an important role in it. So, a while back I had the opportunity to observe a Junior Cattleman’s Show. They had a variety of youth showing their prize cattle for ribbons and awards.

Having no personal experience with livestock, I was impressed with the way these young people handled the animals and I was especially amazed when I saw the Pee Wee Livestock Show. There were children who looked to range in age from 3-5 years old. One little girl in particular was approximately 3 years old, and she was dressed like a true cowgirl with the jeans, bling belt, dress shirt , hat and a show stick.

What amazed me was not this cute little girl pretending to be a cowgirl, what amazed me was she truly was a cowgirl in training. She was walking this animal and leading it with a show stick with great confidence and poise. Of course she had her father following closely to ensure both her and all other’s safety, but he too had confidence that this little girl was capable of leading and showing the calf. Keep in mind that when I say calf, these cattle were easily 300 plus pounds and capable of squashing any of the Pee Wee Showmen. But it was clear that these young cowboys and cowgirls have been entrenched in the rich life of agriculture and specifically management of livestock since birth.

What a legacy, these children are apprenticed into a critical part of our life and economic cycle, the management of a farm or cattle takes HARD WORK, planning, coordinating, communication, physical and mental mastery and flexibility due to the unpredictability of weather and the animals themselves. I cannot think of another industry here and now where children are born into a training ground for productivity , purpose and responsibility at such a young age. By the way, although it involves plenty of hard work, these folks have fun and work collaboratively as families and with fellow cattleman and friends. It was an honor and joy to witness this part of our culture that is still crucial and yet forgotten or taken for granted by many.

To punctuate this, a few weeks after observing the show, I had the opportunity to help separate young steer who were being sold for the next  Florida State Fair Youth Steer Show. I mentioned that I have no experience in agriculture or livestock. My background has been primarily in sales, customer service and management. In other words I have spent most of my life in a suit and heels. So a few weeks back I found myself out in a pasture with several cattle pens and as the steer were released from the shoot after being weighed- in and tagged, they were driven by a young man in my direction. Someone would yell out a pen number and my job was to ensure that the steer was directed to the proper pen.

This was quite an experience, literally I would have steer ranging in size from 500 pounds to 900 pounds coming my way and all I had to do was open the correct gate to guide them to their place. Most of the steer were docile and the young man directing them did his best to guide them, but some of the steer were sensitive to the process and had an instinct to run away from the guided path. On occasion they came running straight towards me, with a look that can only be described as “A steer in the headlights”, funny I’m sure that on their receiving end, I was looking at them like “A deer in the headlights”. But this capable young man always ensured that the steer were managed.

This young man just graduated high school, he was raised by a single mom and in speaking with his AG teacher, he worked hard in the program to not only take responsibility for his animal, but whenever the teacher needed help if heading out of town, this was the young man they knew they could rely on to manage all of the animals in the facility. He also had an elderly grandparent who could no longer live independently and so he moved in with her to assist her when he wasn’t at school or work.

I watched this man work, he was quiet , yet confident and followed direction as needed by the teacher. He worked hard in the hot sun and muggy , buggy weather without any complaint. He is very sharp and wants to be an engineer, so he is joining the Navy, because he does not want to burden his mother with the expense of college and loans. His goal is to train in the service and work towards his goal while serving our country.  As the single mother of 3 fine young men, I will tell you that I am impressed with this hard working unassuming young man. I believe he represents the hope of our Nation, and this heritage from agriculture and livestock has been fertile ground and foundation for his future.

Genesis 1:28 “God Blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over every living creature.'”

P.S. I may never put on a suit and heels again…..:)