Monday, May 19, 2014

No Short Cuts

A happy little cantaloupe before its journey 
I think it's human nature to try to find a faster, easier way to do things, don't you? Progress. Efficiency. Increased production.

But some things simply defy short cuts.

Take cantaloupes for example. I love a ripe, juicy melon as much as the next Floridian, maybe even more. But I must admit that until today I never gave much thought about how they get from the field to my table.

This morning I detoured my prayer walk to a wooded area adjacent to what is usually a large strawberry field. Apparently I haven't been observant enough to notice that the green plants aren't dotted with red berries as they've always been in the past. Nope, this time white globes peppered the fields.

And as evidenced by the workers swarming the place, today was harvest day!

I expected to see the field hands gather the cantaloupes much the same way they do strawberries - filling a flat or container of some sort that they drag along behind them along the row. But not so. The harvesting process was actually quite mesmerizing in its beauty and simplicity, and I found myself standing there watching for quite a while.

A truck straddled a newly picked row, moving forward at a snail's pace; three men stood atop the truck bed on either side of the truck catching the cantaloupes tossed up to them by three men moving parallel in the field on both sides of the truck.

The tossers were pretty incredible. In one graceful swoop, the man leaned down, picked a cantaloupe and hoisted the 5-lb fruit up and over his head. Like an NFL quarterback. He threw the thing in a perfect arc to the receiver on the truck and immediately bent back down for another. Down, up. Down, up. Down, up.

I'm not talking a single play here. He must've thrown a hundred passes on one row alone and these guys weren't all that close to the truck either.

My arms ached just watching them.

Over and over and over the heavy white balls arced through the air like fat birds in flight. The receiver who caught it then turned and rolled the melon into a crate which I presume would soon be on its way to the market. Catch, turn. Catch, turn. Catch, turn.

Everyone moved in perfect timing like a graceful, choreographed dance. It was truly inspiring to watch. Unexpected grace in an unexpected place.

I marveled that in this day of automation and machinery, cantaloupes are still harvested this way. Evidently there is no quicker, easier way. No short cuts. At least in one farmer's way of thinking.

And then I started thinking of other things in life for which there are no short cuts. Developing relationships. Healing, both emotionally and physically. Learning to do anything well. Trusting Papa God.

Sometimes we just have to go through the motions and endure the long, tedious journey. Down, up. Down, up. Down, up. Catch, turn. Catch, turn. Catch, turn. Because the repetition, the details, the hardness of it are essential to the process. The process that produces change in us. The process that makes the journey our actual destination.

So the next time you take a big ole bite of a luscious, ripe cantaloupe and the juice trickles down your chin, won't you join me in a moment of gratitude for doing some things the good old fashioned hard way?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One of Those Weenie Days

Ever have one of those days when everything possible went wrong? Sure you have. We all have. It's how we respond that separates the weenies from the warriors.

Take my friend Lana for example. Her story will make your eyebrows stand at attention.

Lana's daybreak flight from Denver to Philly was late. By the time she reached Philly, air traffic control had too many planes in the air so circling the airport repeatedly created even more of delay.

Upon deboarding, she found that she had exactly ten minutes to make her connecting flight at a terminal completely at the other end of the airport. Can you say Usain Bolt in heels?

But alas, she arrived panting and sweating only to find that her flight had been cancelled. The only other connecting flight to her speaking engagement in Baltimore would arrive too late for the event.

Lana called the event planner for advice and was talked into renting a car and driving the nearly three hour trek. So she went to baggage claim to retrieve her luggage and was told no problem - the bags would arrive within 30 minutes.

Three hours later her bags arrived and by then the Philly car rental services were fresh out of cars. Every one. How could that happen???

So she spent the next two hours on hold with the airlines trying to get a flight - any flight - including a return flight because hers was automatically canceled along with her original flight.

Finally something went right, or at least it seemed that way at the moment. She was able to get a new boarding pass and needed to recheck the behemoth bags she'd been lugging around into the Philly TSA. But as she stepped into an elevator to head back to security, the elevator got stuck between floors. After much panic and not a little screaming, the elevator gasped for life and chugged slowly to the nearest floor, where Lana rapidly exited. She reported to a TSA agent what had happened. Despite Lana's reluctance, the agent insisted that Lana get back on the elevator to ride along with her to prove it was a fluke and would never happen again.

It happened again.

When the agent tried to pry the elevator door open, she only succeeded in jamming it, which prevented the door from closing, which prevented them from going anywhere.

Before Lana could follow through with her frustration by kickboxing the elevator door, the ultra-professional, petite agent surprised her by punching the door with her fist. Would you believe it - the punch did the trick and the door closed just enough to get them up to the next floor.

There's something to be said for watching Rocky I- XV. (Incidentally, by Rocky XV I believe he was duking it out in the ring with Hilary Clinton.)

When Lana finally got to the appropriate gate, she found that high winds had prevented the plane she was supposed to take from coming into Philly from Pittsburgh. The next flight didn't leave until the following morning, which means Lana would entirely miss her speech scheduled for that night.

That was when she texted every friend she knew to start praying. Now. She was NOT going to cave and let Satan win this one. She'd had enough. Time to fight fire with fire.

Within twenty minutes, the wind died down. The plane came in. Lana was able to board on time (although they changed the gate and she didn't realize it until the last minute) and she arrived in Baltimore late that night. Her speech was rescheduled to the next day.

Like most of us facing terrible, rotten, ridiculous circumstances, Lana first panicked and nearly fell to pieces. But she didn't stay that way. Her faith kicked in (better faith than an elevator door, right?). She might have started out as a weenie but she ended strong. As a warrior.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1, NASB)

Yep. There's power in prayer. Weenies morph into warriors. The underdog can become a champion. Even against Hilary's left upper cut.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Don't Miss the Music

Where I go to hear the music
My frantic life has screeched to a halt this past week.

It began with a hurried, worried, late night drive to the ER with Spouse in severe abdominal pain and ended ... Well, it hasn't ended yet.

But it hasn't been all bad.

During countless tests, then surgery, then waiting for the MD to arrive, a gigantic railroad track scar, and now recovery, I've been forced to set aside busy life as I know it and sit. Just sit.

Sit and read. Sit and listen. Sit and reflect.

And that's been good for me. Because I can hear the music again.

"What music?" you must be wondering.

It's the same music I heard up on a trail just a few weeks ago above our Smoky Mt. cabin. I was walking along the secluded woodsy path (I love it in the spring on our mountain because none of the other Florida transients are up there yet so it's just us, the birds, and the bears) when I felt the need to stop and rest a bit. So I parked my tush on a boulder to catch my breath.

That's when I heard the music.

It was gentle and humble and unpretentious - pretty hard to tune into at first. But the longer I sat there, the melody grew and filled my insides with its glory. The buzz of bees, the trickle of a hidden waterfall, the rumble of distant thunder, tree branches rustling in the breeze, the epitome of sweetness in life all combined to create music for my soul.

It was truly beautiful and so very satisfying. Peace. It sounded like peace.

And then it occurred to me. If you walk by too fast, you'll miss the music.

So I vowed to not walk so fast all the time. To slow down and listen. But as soon as we returned home, I hit the road running and it took an emergency room run to put on the breaks. To stop. And hear the beautiful music of Papa God playing in my soul.

So I urge you, friend, to do what I didn't on my own initiative. Take a few moments this week to stop, sit down, and catch your breath. And listen for Papa's gentle melody in your heart.