A Better Way

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makeupI’ve stayed in more hotel rooms these past six months than in the past ten years of my life combined. As one who is often all too willing to subscribe to marketing ploys, I generally keep my Hilton Honors card pretty close (points speak, you know). But these travels have brought me to a variety of places to lay my head for the night, and to two specific A-ha moments that today are causing me to ask:

What if there’s a better way?

But before you dial in for deep thoughts, two not-so-weighty illustrations from my travels must be shared…

Every bed I slept on in Europe defied my understanding of the limits of linens. To be specific, it blew my mind that every two-person mattress was topped with two separate comforters! One fitted sheet. No top sheet. Two duvets stuffed into their own duvet covers – one for each sleep-mate.

Exposure to this one idea has revolutionized the way I make my bed! Don’t laugh! Gone are the days of blanket tug-of-war. I can stick my toes out for air on either side of my small blanket – even on my husband’s side. And I can launder the top sheet/duvet cover as often as I used to change the sheets, giving my touch of OCD a bit of a reprieve as I climb into fresh bedding and switch off the lights.

I always assumed that sharing the bed meant sharing the covers. Well – didn’t you?

Never mind that she’s a cover-hog and he wakes up shivering in the dark.

Never mind that his favorite quilt is too warm – or not heavy enough – for her.

Never mind the onset of menopause and those pesky thermostat-changes in the middle of the night.

We’re married. We share a bed. We share the covers. For better or worse. End of story. Right?

I never stopped to consider that there just might be a better way.

One of my favorite recent stays was in a funky boutique hotel. Not part of a huge conglomerate, this quirky place has an enormous hot tub that seats about 50 (seriously) and a fabulous organic Mexican restaurant curbside. The rooms have black marble tile in the bathroom and cuddly robes hanging in the closet. They give you bottled water or soda, candy bars & snacks for free – yours for the asking – and each room has a Keurig with to-go cups and lids. If you’re checking in for just one night, you can request a 24 hour stay! Check out time is 24 hours from the time you check in. Sweet!

But the coolest feature in my opinion shows up on the towel rack. It’s a black washcloth. Embroidered with the word ‘makeup’.

Now, this will be totally lost on the gentlemen, but a black cloth for removing makeup is totally brilliant! Especially for a hotel. While it hasn’t stopped me from engaging in my hygiene routine, I have often felt bad about using those pristinely whitened cloths to remove mascara at the end of the day. After all, I see my own white cloths with black stains at home, in spite of the bleach-maintenance system I’ve devised. Yet it never occurred to me that there was another option for hotels other than white!

Who knew? There is a better way!

I know, I know… Comforters and washcloths don’t exactly have the power to change the world, but what if there’s a better way to do other things, too, and instead of being ready for inspiration and open to new ideas, I’m at home on the couch? TV droning. The world at arm’s length. Firmly fixed in my comforting little routines.

What if there’s a better way to love people – and I miss out because I think I know it all?

What if there’s a better way to meet the needs of the lonely – but I fail to meet the lonely because I’m content to hang out in my own little world?

What if the God of the universe hasn’t stopped creating – and yet I’m missing His handiwork out there by choosing instead to hole up in here?

It doesn’t take a European vacation to see that there is a way of life that leads to death – where minds are shut tight and there is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing brilliant to be discovered under the sun.

Likewise, you don’t need a hotel loyalty card to discover that, as the United Church of Christ has said so well, “God is still speaking!” And inspiring! And creating! And saving!

So, open your eyes. Pay attention to the world around you. Watch for clever improvements on the dull and monotonous. Look for better ways to do the little things, but more importantly – look for ways to improve on the meaningful work you have been placed here to do.

Don’t settle for what works. Find a better way.

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Wanted: Champions

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RunnerI used to run in the mornings.

When I was (significantly) younger, I would wake up early and sleepily tie on my sneakers, pop a cassette tape into my Walkman (yup – just dated myself), put my headphones on (no earbuds, mind you, just a couple of generously-sized speakers that nearly covered my entire ear), and wander out onto the pavement.

My first steps were always labored and awkward (not to mention painfully slow). Often though, as my body warmed to the idea of motion, I would find my stride. The rhythmic thud of my feet on the street somehow managed to free up space in my head. Some days, I found myself lost in the music I was listening to. Other times, my thoughts were so loud that the music served only as a soundtrack for the stories and scenarios streaming through my mind.

But there were moments during these early morning jogs where neither the music nor the head games could compete with the drama emerging from the east. On these days, as the sun gathered its energy and bled its light into the fading darkness, I was nearly overcome by the power of the new day. Light and warmth intensified everything within eyeshot, exposing the world to me and me to it. On these days, when my run was over, I felt… different. As if I hadn’t just been on a run, but on a journey. That somehow, in 30 minutes’ time, I had started and completed something; that mysteriously, things had changed.

One thing I never experienced, however, was the sense that I was in any way/shape/form a Champion. I was just a jogger. A novice. A casual athlete. I wasn’t running to win any races or trying to keep pace with anyone else. I ran because I had a desire to move.

At a meeting I attended last week, this word Champion came up.

Not the winner/victor/title-holder kind of Champion, but the supporter/guardian/defender/advocate kind.

The kind of Champion who campaigns tirelessly for her cause.

The kind of Champion who will fight for what is right and necessary and true.

The kind of Champion who stands up for those who just can’t find their balance (or have been knocked out so many times that they just can’t lift themselves up off of the mat – again).

Not the noun-kind-of-Champion, who wears a medal or frames a certificate to hang on the wall, but the verb-kind-of-Champion. The doing/speaking/acting/stepping-out-of-comfort-zones-for-something-bigger-than-myself-ing kind. One who bravely acts on an innate desire to move.

The Psalmist noticed this need to move in the daily recurrence of the sunrise, comparing the sun to “a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Psalm 19:5

Having a very well-defined ‘course’ to run, the sun rises every morning and sets every night, only to rise up and do the same again tomorrow. And the day after that. And again, the day after that. Without the faithful, daily emergence of light and heat from the sky, all of creation would be out of whack. Out of sync. Unable to function predictably.

Without this Champion of the sky, darkness would prevail on the earth.

But a quick look around me confirms that, while physical darkness comes and goes with the day, other forms of darkness have fallen around us which aren’t so eager to be ushered out by the sun.

Emotional darkness. Depression. Lost hope.

Relational darkness. Betrayal. Discord.

Spiritual darkness. Confusion. Mixed messages.

I know you see it. I know you feel it all around you, every time you leave the house or pick up the phone or turn on the tv.

Champions are needed in this world that’s out of whack, to bring it back into sync with the Creator. Verb-kinds-of-Champions, whose goal isn’t victory but action. Whose course is met with patience and persistence and joy.

Whose first steps may be labored and awkward and slow, but whose faithful attempts at finding their stride produce rhythms of freedom and healing and possibility for those who haven’t seen the sun in a very, very, very long time.

Friend, move to a window and look up.

The One Who made the sun and set its course in the sky is the same One Who created you! You may not have noticed this before, but you have been given your own course to run. You are the possessor of energy and light, and there are people all around you whose lives are crying out for a Champion!

Not a competitive, gotta-come-out-on-top Champion, but one who is compassionate, looking-out-for-the-lost-and-the-lonely-and-the-least. Not sprinting to the finish, leaving the ‘competition’ in the dust, but faithfully and steadily following the course of a God-crafted life in a God-hungry world.

We need Champions!

Double-knot those sneakers, my brave friend. I’ll see you on the street.

An Unlikely Mentor

At William “Bill” Alfier’s memorial service today, memories flowed freely and were peppered with laughter, salted with tears. Bill was a colorful guy for whom appearances meant nothing, but whose family and friends meant everything to him. He lived exactly as he pleased and gave permission for others to do the same, and whether or not he intentionally chose to mentor three young men, including my husband, the return on Bill’s investment of time and attention touches my own life every single day.

People like Bill Alfier are a rare breed, yet today more than ever we need these unlikely mentors to grow the next generation of engineers, leaders, teachers, world-changers; people who see potential in everyone and are willing to pour into a few lives the best of what they’ve learned. These exchanges might take place at the conference table or over a working lunch, but it’s all the better when they happen during the course of a real and imperfect life; for my husband, this included countless rides in cigar-smoke infused vehicles and many hours spent seated on bar stools, listening to the shaping-stories of a man who held nothing back.

It was a beautiful thing to hear my husband, Dallas Hammit, speak the following words in honor of his mentor, Bill Alfier. We share them with you now in hopes that you, too, will consider the power your life still has when you make the choice to give it away.

If you knew Bill, you know he had strong opinions on many subjects: politics, the Marine Corps, and building roads, but what stayed with me were his thoughts on people. Bill often said “God did not make any junk.” Bill looked for the best in people and was constantly watching for ways to assist people in their personal and professional development. This help came in a number of forms:
        Pushing you to start or complete college,
        Providing a work schedule that would allow for continuing education,
        Providing coaching to advance one’s career, or
        Taking a backseat to allow a young engineer to learn and grow.

Bill lived servant leadership. It was not a fad or the trending thing to do, it was a belief.  “A leader must put their employees first and allow them to grow.”

Bill liked to tell stories, and I heard most of them in the car as we drove through the District. Many times it would start with Bill calling loudly down the hall, “I’ve got roads to build!” and we would be off. There were lots of stories. Stories of the days when he worked in the carnival. Stories of going to Montana to mine copper. Stories of stripping down to his underwear at the bar, to win a bet with Mr Higgins. Stories of changing the way things were done at ADOT. One of those lasting changes was the Maintenance Servant Leadership Team. Bill – and others – believed the people closest to the work should have a larger say in what goes on and how we do things in maintenance. They formed a team of engineers and superintendents that met regularly and set policy for the way their department would do business, from dividing the budget to advocating for worker’s pay. This group is still active today.

And if there ever was a question about whether Bill had a lasting influence at ADOT, just look at the current leadership: a District Engineer, State Engineer and Chief of Operations all grew and developed under Bill’s leadership.

Bill Alfier will be missed.

William “Bill” Peter Alfier, July 22, 1944 – January 22, 2018

Trek to the Manger (DQ29)

We can only imagine what awaits us at the end of our own Trek to the place where Christ is present.

“Only Christ can get rid of the veil. Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are – face to face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” 2 Corinthians 3:14b-18

May you arrive at the manger – in your heart – and be so much more full of Light and energy and life this year, for having taken this Advent-ure with us.

And remember – from this day on, it’s you and God on a road revealed milepost by milepost – the adventure of a lifetime!

Trek to the Manger 29

If you registered for the Trek and posted at least three times in response to the daily questions during Advent, stay tuned for the results of our nifty prize drawings! Recipients will be posted on the Trek to the Manger page by January 2, 2018.

Trek to the Manger (DQ28)

Trek to the Manger 28You’ve heard the saying, “there’s safety in numbers,” right?

Maybe. But on this Trek to the Manger, I’ve become a firm believer that “there’s energy in numbers,” too.

Think about it! Together, God’s light in the lives of believers shines more brightly than a life lived – however passionately – alone.

I wonder, is God leading you toward others who share your passions? Energy? Vision? Who are they, and how are you going to respond?

Over the past week, I’ve also decided to adopt a new mantra in 2018: Follow the Energy! Where God’s good stuff is happening, the Spirit is stirring, and even if you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel the power surging as you move closer to the action.

I’m pretty sure that’s what happened at the manger, all those years ago.

 

Trek to the Manger (DQ27)

Trek to the Manger 27

So much life is lost in waiting for “someday” to arrive.

Some of us, hearts set on Heaven, miss the beauty to be found in our broken world today.

Others, so dialed-in to their goals and agendas, squander today’s opportunities while planning for a tomorrow that may never actually arrive.

Do you remember a time when the anticipation of a coming event or milestone kept you from truly engaging in your life being lived “today?” 

Today, let’s agree to give away the temptation to look forward to the future at the expense of here-and-now!

Trek to the Manger (DQ26)

Trek to the Manger 26Being stranded stretches us.

Even in the face of warm hospitality and a tasty bowl of chili, some of us will choose to pout because things just aren’t going our way.

“The Holy can be either a Hiding Place or a Boulder blocking your way.” Isaiah 8:14

Which one is it going to be for you, as the long-awaited Christmas holiday arrives?

Will you take refuge in the strength of the Baby in the manger, while you wait for life to make sense again? Or will you stand, hands-on-hips, and complain about the roads that have been closed along the way?

Maybe today is your day to whip up a batch of “chili” (real or proverbial – you decide), to make someone else’s wait less trying. At least they’d know they’re not alone.

 

Trek to the Manger (DQ25)

Trek to the Manger 25Lately, I’ve taken quite a few rides on Lyft. It takes a little bit of getting used to, being a passenger in someone else’s car.

When I’m driving, I get to decide when to change lanes, when to change directions. Not so when someone named Andre or Pete is driving.

On this Trek to the Manger, we’ve talked a lot about making changes. The thing is, what God is really after is our willingness to go along for the ride.

Do you trust Him to get you where you need to go?

What’s it going to take for you to enthusiastically call out “Shotgun!”?

 

Trek to the Manger (DQ24)

Trek to the Manger Ch 24Can’t help but chuckle, reading chapter 24 afresh, now that my Stinky Friday kid is all grown-up. Maybe it was in rebound from those good ol’ sixth grade days, but there was a definite spike in water usage when high school rolled around.

I’ve got two questions for you to consider on this Stinky (Friday) Tuesday…

 

Deodorant is a cover-up for body odor. Anti-perspirant works to keep smelly conditions at bay. Which have you been relying on to keep your world stink-free, and how’s that working for you?

Just in case you hadn’t realized it, stink is a by-product of living. Close your eyes and engage your spiritual nostrils… What smells a bit ripe in your domain today?

Today, I thank God for the waters of baptism and the chance He gives each of us to start again, fresh and clean and stinky-sin-free!

Trek to the Manger (DQ22)

Trek to the Manger Ch 22It’s so hard to know what people need to hear.

On the one hand, there are things I like to say! I have my favorite stories to tell and advice to give, and when I’m learning something that affects me deeply, I’m apt to want to share it with others.

But what if those things aren’t what my fellow sojourners need to hear? What if they just need me to listen? What if they just want company – a peaceful presence on the road – with no words at all?

I’m wordy and I know it. Today, I want duct tape over my mouth, to remind me to be “quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19), because my high-beam energy just might be scaring away those who are in desperate need of God’s presence, not my interpretation of it.

Consider those whose lives currently intersect with your own. Who is keeping step with you? Who is lagging behind? Who is watching from the sidewalk, as if on the parade route? And what is your responsibility toward them as a bearer of light in God’s Kingdom?

Trek to the Manger (DQ21)

Trek to the Manger Ch 21Who is your gift-giving really about? 

For those of us on a Trek to the Manger, questions like this one are helping to guide our decision-making in a season of auto-pilot moves.

Tradition is great, but mindless tradition needs to be questioned. Why we do what we do, in terms of gift-giving or anything else, really does matter!

Do you have a philosophy of gifting during the Christmas season (or even year-round)? 

If you could box up your life’s best gift for our Savior, what would it be?