QTMs for 9/28/19: From Humility To Excellence

Humility is one of those things we may find confusing to define, but I believe we all agree what humility’s absence looks like.

Definitely. Espresso grind.

I recently read that almost everyone you meet claims to be humble. Yet even while making that claim, they have their eye on the Trinity just in case there’s a vacancy.

QTMs is my own shorthand for Quiet Time Musings. At one time I sent at least one such post each morning, and its practice became more habitual than enjoyable. That’s one of the reasons I stopped writing them. Two others are that I’m continuing work on the manuscript for my first book, which takes time. The second is that I’ve been forced by my web hosting site to switch to new servers. There’s more to that than meets the checkbook, so suffice it to say I’ve been slowed down and distracted. Frustrated, evUN. (Some of you read that in Snagglepuss’s voice. I heard you.)

No matter where I’m reading during each morning’s quiet time, I always find good, worthy counsel in Psalms and Proverbs. This year I’ve been reading out of the English Standard Version, and the subtle differences are always instructive. I love to learn new ways of understanding and applying what the Bible has to say.

This morning some things Psalm 25 has to say about humility’s link with learning grabbed my attention. My habit is to point out what I’m learning, rather than to bore you quoting Scripture. The section of my focus, however, is verses 8 through 14. Get yourself a refill of java and let’s think together.

God “instructs sinners in the way”. Okay, we sort of expect that. It’s what follows that interests me. He “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way”.

Yeah? So? Repetitive, right?

Nope. Only one who is teachable can be led. Only one who wants to learn can be taught. Note the difference between “God instructs sinners” and “He leads and teaches the humble”. There’s a stark difference between, “Okay, goofoffs, listen up!” and “Come on over here and take a load off; I’ve something to share with you.”

I just read this morning of a Port St. Lucie, FL 8th grade teacher who was fired because she refused to give lazy, impudent students at least 50% for not handing in their required work. They weren’t interested in being either led or taught, so she was restricted to only instructing them.

This passage reminds that in times when these Scriptures were written, teachers often walked along, speaking as they walked. Those wanting to learn from them walked along with them, both to hear and to bounce questions off them.

It reads that “all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness” toward those wanting to follow after Him. That implies a close, growing relationship between teacher and learners.

Think back. Who were your favorite teachers in school? Your favorite profs in college or grad school? What made them so?

This Psalm says those same things apply, albeit perfectly, to God’s desired relationship with you. Weren’t some of your most memorable times with friends those times when you walked along together, sharing thoughts and ideas? The promises here indicate that kind of closeness between God and anyone humble enough to want to read (hear) what He has to teach.

Your humility – remaining curious and teachable – is your pathway to excellence.

Check out verse 14. Really? Friendship with God?

© Copyright D. Dean Boone, September 2019

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GRANGER at Halloween for 10/26/16: THE TEAR IN THE WRAPPER

Truth in advertising“, it read.

Granger was fed up with the glut of political flyers in his mailbox and inboxes.  Tossing on his desk the garishly colored hit piece in yoga pants by a former state senator, he swung around and gazed unfocused out the window at a grayish, cotton-streaked sky with bruise-blue accents.  Chuffing through his nose, he thought, “Even the sky’s puzzled by it all.”

Bemused, he reached for his “Coffee Made Me Do It” mug.  Just before he got it to his mouth, he noticed the “fun-size” Butterfinger laying on his desk; it had been hidden by the big black mug.  Glancing over at the glass bowl full of assorted Halloween-sized candy, he saw many other bars identical to the one huddled behind his coffee.  You won’t get away from me-e-e . . .

Image result for fun-size Butterfinger

Amused at the desire-borne moisture in his mouth, he glommed onto the familiar yellow-orange-gold wrapper.  Granger actually licked his lips as he tore the wrapper lengthwise.

Opening the wrapper, he grimaced in disgust.  Really?  Instead of the neat, compact one-by-two-inch chocolate-covered nougat he expected to find, a sharded mess of odd-shaped pieces had fallen onto his black crew-neck tee and khaki pants.

Irritated, he started to grouse about something more to clean up when he suddenly got quiet.

I know people like that, he reasoned.  Brightly packaged, looking like others in The Bowl, like they’ve got it all together–until the wrapper comes off.  Unwrapped, they’re a ragged, jagged collection of misshapen pieces just waiting to fall all over the place.

Yeah, I know people like that.  I’ve been like that.

Image result for people wearing I'm fine masks

As these thoughts jostled each other in his mind, he glanced again at the phrase off the discarded voting flyer:  “Truth In Advertising”.

 

Granger’s eyes blurred and his voice thickened as he spoke aloud, a habit of those who spend most of their time alone.  “Oh, yeah.  Many’s the time that, had my wrapper torn, all my hidden insecurities, my personal misgivings, self-doubt, all those questions about myself would be laying all over in a huge, untidy mess just like–here he made a rueful face as he surveyed the slightly-sticky, sweet mess he’d dumped on his clothes– “my ill-fated little candy bar buddy, may it rest in pieces.”

 

Later, wearing a comfortable black-and-red shirt with the sleeves rolled half up and a soft pair of old jeans, he stood with mug in left hand and coffee carafe in right, thinking about the recent experience.  Shaking his head as if to wake up, Granger poured a fresh, fragrant cup of Community Golden Caramel, returned to his desk chair and sat pondering.

Is it wrong to present a public appearance that’s attractive, appropriate to one’s task?  Does that not reflect good self-image and -respect?

Is it deceptive to present an outward persona that’s positive and uplifting, even when one’s interior landscape more resembles a barren wasteland?  As a Christ-follower, isn’t being winsome and attractive kind of necessary?

Sipping thoughtfully at the semi-sweet, smooth coffee, he answered his own question.

Deception is willful.  Wearing a mask is intended to hide, to frustrate and conceal.  If those are the reasons for the wrapper, then the advertising is dishonest and disingenuous.

Image result for Christ Like spirit despite internal pain

Image result for Christ Like spirit despite internal pain

If one’s desire is to be a consistent positive, encouraging and Christlike witness to one’s own world, then God can be trusted to know how to tenderly deal with the internal brokenness.  To fit the nonfitting.  To create beauty and symmetry just as perfectly as He did at The Original Event.

Rising to refill his mug, Granger thoughtfully nabbed another of the sweet, chocolaty morsels from the Halloween bowl.  Grinning as he softly checked that this one was whole, he admitted to himself, I don’t have this here “for the kids” since none ever come up here.  I have this here for me.  And I’m lovin’ it!

Butterfinger?

© D. Dean Boone, October 2016

 

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2nd Cup of Coffee, 11/18/19: GOD’S RABBIT

When the journey has made you weary and you can’t see the way home, it’s comfort to the soul to encounter someone who does.

Captain Golden and I had spent hours in the frigid air aloft over northeastern Montana, doing our best in a trusty little T-33 to dodge and frustrate the efforts of two sleek, beautifully-deadly F-106 interceptors trying to flame us.

As pilot, the captain’s job was to make that little bird juke and dance all over the sky to break those interceptor radar locks before they could get clean missile shots at us. Since his seat back was too high for him to see behind him, he needed a spotter who could. As spotter, it was my job to tell him when to start that altitude- and course-evasive madness.

All of us, target crew, interceptor pilots, and ground control teams knew some things.

We knew we were safely being tracked and controlled by ground radar specialists and that our intercepts and weapons were all computer-generated. We knew it was beautiful flying weather that day at 14,000 feet, with almost unlimited visibility. We knew this was no game: we were practicing the deadliest dance in the air – the interception and possible destruction of an enemy target aircraft.

Those parachutes and helmets weren’t just for show. By the time we all were low on fuel and each returning to our bases, our flight suits were sweaty and our hair matted. We messed up some of their intercepts, and they splashed us a lot. We’d all just been perfecting our lethal profession, identifying possible threats and, when necessary, airborne death.

Captain Golden and I relaxed on the way back to Great Falls, Montana and Malmstrom AFB. We critiqued our evasive strategies, identified an idea or two that might be worth mentioning during mission debrief, and joked about this or that. Though I kept my feet off the rudder pedals, I flew the jet part of the way home.

Visibility being wonderful, we were both drinking in the absolute beauty of flying in those conditions. It was edging toward dusk as we neared our approach fix, and there was one more thing that, for me, made the experience as perfect as anything on Earth can be.

Somebody had turned the rabbit on. The rabbit is a series of sequenced bright strobes situated on gradually-higher platforms, spaced enough apart and somewhat aligned with the glide slope to as to beckon the incoming aircraft from final approach fix to landing. Even in good weather, there’s nothing more satisfying and relieving as seeing those strobes flashing out through the night, saying, “Welcome home, traveler. Come on in.”

God’s rabbit, His Spirit, has never failed to offer that same comfort and guidance to the human spirit. Every time I’ve found myself worn in body, mind, or spirit – or all three – the Holy Spirit always turns on God’s rabbit.

It can be a Bible verse or passage. It’s often a song, or some prose from another believer. In some cases, it’s been the timely visit and encouragement of a Christian brother or sister. Whatever the case, God’s rabbit does the same thing as those sequential strobes do at each end of almost every runway.

They reassure you somebody’s been watching, has turned on the lights for you, and are waiting to welcome you home.

© Copyright D. Dean Boone, November 2019

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Saturday 2nd Cup for 10/5/19: BETTER? NOT.

He awakened to the familiar discadent drum section warmup. A Fall overnight thunderstorm was his alarm, and he laid there for a few extra moments, listening, sensing, absorbing.

The knowing is optional; the coffee essential.

The Columbian Supremo he’d prepared the night before was ready. So was he.

As he poured the fresh, steaming java into his big white Perkatory mug, he glanced around his basement family room. The fireplace drew immediate attention, for he’d fixed a small fire, and had a log burning there, it’s pleasant light making soft shadows weave into their happy dance of morning welcome.

This morning, he’d chosen some light classical music softly playing in the background. Telemann. Verdi. His eyes retreated into middle distance as he grinned at some friends who’d frown at it.

“I thought you liked smooth, soft jazz. You’re forever writing about it, and whenever I come over, that’s usually what you have playing in here.”

There were a few other close friends who understood his eclectic musical tastes . . .

He then sat, embracing the pleasant solitude, sipping coffee with each thought, occasionally jotting notes to himself.

He was dressed in what he jokingly called ‘lounge lizards’ – actually Adidas activewear. Comfort being his object, he had begun his day as was his habit. Slanting his eyes over at the Bibles on the loveseat, he wryly grinned at the three separate translations laying there, two of them open.

Granger often lost himself in his reading.

Finished with that morning’s bit of social media encouragement to someone, maybe several someones, whom he may never know, he refilled his mug. He scanned the morning’s inbox for anything perhaps requiring his attention.

1813 -Battle of Thames in Canada; Americans defeat British . . .

1978 – Over 30 nations ratify the Environmental Modification Convention which prohibits weather warfare that has— (Great, more of that drek…)

Townhall Daily – “Biden makes one thing clear—” (That’ll be the day…)

Granger quickly shuffled all surrounding him into some semblance of disorderly order. He’d foregone the normal first-thing shower, and it was time. By the time he dressed and was presentable for the normal Saturday morning breakfast at Jimmie’s Diner, he knew there’d be plenty of Facebook chat, some of which would require some thoughtful response.

And respond he would.

He knew such literary activity was part of why God had restored him to life. He knew he’d always generate deep satisfaction from such online interaction. He knew his coffee had become tepidly undrinkable.

Shower. Fresh refill. Jimmie’s. Nope; Better? Not.

© Copyright D. Dean Boone, October 2019

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2nd Cup of Coffee for 8/30/19: “COULD YA MAKE ‘EM WITH LARGER HANDLES?” Or “FUN WITH THE BATHWATER OF THE NOBLE BEAN.”

G’mornin’. Writers can and often do find inspiration in just about any setting. You may or may not ever again see your morning coffee in quite the same way; yet I hope this little bit of fun involving java will help make your Friday a little easier to take. Enjoy.

“I was on my third cup of joe. It needed something, so I dumped sugar, cream, and a little caramel in it. It was better.”

OR

“The coffee was good and I knew it could only get better. It already had a mysterious dark side the first cup barely revealed, so I poured another, listening, sensing the eager liquid flow into my almost empty mug.

“Sipping now where before I’d intemperately quaffed, I allowed its spicy richness to linger as it hesitated over seeking taste buds. Nutty? Fruity? Exotic? The intense smoky brew was all that and more. Soon my mug was again empty. I knew I must have more. I knew another cup with what I would add was pushing it. I knew my finger was stuck in that stupid little handle.

“Gently extracting my finger, I began yet again to pour out that dark, warm elixir of life. Ah, but I stopped before the faithful mug was full. This time I introduced a spoonful of sweet sugary granules, each briefly sparkling as they dove into the heated depths of the waiting coffee. Did I say one? No, one would not be enough. Another sweet spoonful disappeared into the swirling, heady mix.

“Cool, thick, steadying cream was next. Enough? NO. More. As each wonderful ingredient was added, the level of coffee in the mug rose slightly, it’s now-fawnlike shades roiling, luxuriating like a stretching, yawning lioness as the sweetness and lightness gently eased through the entire cup.

“Last came smooth, comfortable, sleek caramel. Where the cream had quickly lightened the shades of my waiting cup, the easy-squeezy of caramel reversed the trend, tanning, then umbering the mug full of sweet, heavy java.

“Lifting the brim-full mug of caffeinated bliss, I first tested the temperature of heat rising from the heady mix on my lips. Hot, yet not too hot. It was time to taste that third cup for which I’d waited . . .

. . . . . .

“There were no adequate words. My tongue bounced and laughed as the first sip of coffeaque spread liquidly smooth toward waiting tastebuds. My tonsils, now a cranky 66, even gave grudging assent, although warning the creamy, smooth java to stay off their lawn.

Everything breaks but the HANDLE?

“I knew nothing would ever replace each morning’s first couple of cups of rich, black, piping hot coffee. I knew nothing would ever keep me from the heady joy of sugared, creamy, caramelized amazingness that would surely follow. A-a-and I knew my right forefinger was again stuck in that cute, metrodiner mug handle.”

© Copyright D. Dean Boone, August 2019

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Saturday 2nd Cup, 8/24/19: HEY, DIDN’T WE JUST PASS THAT?

Before the truth sets you free it tends to make you miserable. ~ (Richard Rohr)

It’s that unpleasant truth about the truth that makes us prefer almost anything else, even if it’s only a repeat of something familiar we’ve gone back to we know still won’t work, and for that reason is not our friend.

You’ve watched domestic rodents exercising on a wire wheel. Plenty of feverish activity, little legs pumping, breathing hard – and getting nowhere. You’ve likely made the appropriate observation: That’s nuts. I mean, the hamster doesn’t know it doesn’t count. But I know it’s an endless loop, an activity that does nothing but wear the runner out.

So you walk away, and find yourself within a few minutes climbing into your own wire wheel. It’s as if you never saw the hamster, never made the connection.

“What are you doin’? What is that mess?”

“Hmph? Oh, this. Well… And here you duck your head and hunch your shoulders a little … “Those are, ah, the ruins of the old strongholds that once were my prison. They’re, they’re no big deal anymore. I just, I dunno, come back and check ’em out every so often–y’know, just to remind me of where I used to be. Yeah.”

With respect, it sounds like your Legos have gotten pulled apart and you’re fixin’ to step on one.

Seriously? You’re sitting here, right in the middle of a smelly, oily, old, fragmented mess – the remains of everything from which God’s set you free – fingering the shards and broken pieces as if wondering if you could somehow rebuild those walls once holding you hostage?

Instead of realizing the numbing, spirit-deadening effects of your occasionally going back to visit your “exercise wheel”, you’d rather climb into it now and then? Have a little fling with where you once were? A quick chomp on those old lures that never did anything but hurt you?

Really? Why?

It may hurt. Deaden. Numb. It may temporarily bring what you’ve convinced yourself is happiness. Anything but facing up to the truth that really does offer freedom and new growth.

Suggestion: stop reaching back for synthetic happiness, and begin reaching outward and upward for the real joy that derives from moving on, taking new forward steps toward where you want to be – and where God’s leading you.

Psalm 16:11 says it: “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy.” And there it is. The truth that’ll set you free.

Keep going back to what’s familiar from your old ways, and God won’t be there with you. Being the always “I AM”, He’s forever in the today, right here, right now. So if you want to trade that old, very temporary, less and less fulfilling sorta happiness for God’s present, lasting joy, you need to stay right here in the present moment with Him.

Oh, and there’s one more thing in that verse. See “fullness”? Ask yourself what that might mean. God doesn’t do things halfway.

So. If you catch yourself scrunching up your brow, thinking, ” ‘Ay! Haven’t I already passed that a time or two?”, you’re on the bypass.

It’s time to take the next exit. It’s time to get free of that old exercise wheel, and stop going back to that old place, no matter how ‘safe’ and familiar it seems. It’s not what it was.

Neither are you.

Trade the ‘happy’ for some joy. I think you’ll like the returns.

© Copyright D. Dean Boone, August 2019

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2nd Cup of Coffee, 8/23/19: WHAT DOES ‘HOME’ MEAN TO YOU?

Whatever picture just flashed in your conscious mind, there are people somewhere close by who don’t have that.

My mission this morning is to help change that reality for a few families. Every quarter, our local church joins many others in the greater Wichita, Kansas area in being a week-long Family Promise host.

I haven’t time to tell you what that involves, for I must leave shortly to drive a van from our local church in Derby, KS to the area day house in Wichita. I’m including a link to our local Family Promise website to help fill in that knowledge gap.

Why? Because I’m fed up with bigmouthed politicians trying to out-bellow and overtalk one another in decrying America’s homeless problem. Mind you, they’re actually doing little beyond photo shoots. But they’re sure to blame each other for the issue, wringing hands and making excuses for the filth and squalor on virtually every street in the nation’s cities.

Family Promise, in league with America’s local churches, is quietly stepping up to make a lasting difference while squabbling political types make excuses. The following link points up Wichita’s Family Promise efforts of love. If your city doesn’t have one or you’ve never heard of it, it’s time you did.

There are men, women, and youngsters being helped to step up and out of their homeless situation. Politics is not now, nor has it ever been the answer. Your local churches, working with Family Promise.org, can be. All it takes is your willingness to volunteer and get involved. America’s churches are making the difference in providing an answer to homeless persons wanting to get out and once again know what ‘home’ means.

Check it out. Gotta run, friends. I’ve a van full of really great people waiting on me.

Loving you,

Dan

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2nd Cup of Coffee, 8/19/19: SOME KEYS DON’T COME IN BLACK & WHITE

I recently read that those of us who dance are considered insane by those who cannot or will not hear the music. I may not be dancing at present, but the day never dawns I don’t hear the music and sense the beat.

I’ve a Granger story in my draft locker, awaiting my nimble mind and lively imagination to re-engage the plot. It’s too good a story to not give my best to it; therefore, I shall wait until this viral somesuch I’ve been blessed to receive runs its course and finds another unsuspecting host.

Until then, I will whet your appetite with a picture. A few of you know I always enjoy the creative challege of being given a single picture, and building an entire story around it. See what you can come up with . . .

Loving you,

Dan

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2nd Cup of Coffee, 8/15/19: CAN I DRIVE?

Sunday morning we were singing:

“We fall down, we lay our crowns, at the feet of Jesus

The greatness of mercy and love, at the feet of Jesus

And we cry, “Holy, holy, holy…”

We cry, “Holy, holy, holy…”

We cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb.”

The setting is There.  We who have walked with Jesus, living our lives here as imperfect earthly examples of His perfection, are gathered around Him – though I’ve no clue how that’s going to work.

There are billions of us and one of Him.  All of us are crowding in, wanting to at last see and sense everything He is in his supernatural setting. 

Upon entry, at some point we’re all surprised by the crowns we’ve been awarded.  They’re polished to a mirror shine, and studded with sparkling gems that catch and throw off light at our slightest movement.  The whole place – I guess it’s a Grand Throneroom or Main Hall – is dazzling, every surface flashing and sparking and reflecting the deep, gorgeous hues of the perfectly faceted gems in everyone’s crown.

We’re understandably awed at their stunning appearance.  We each stand, remembering our life experiences while on Earth as we knew it.  We know our stewardship of God’s grace was tainted, flawed.  The witness we tried and tried again to show too often seemed to have zero effect.  Too many of us literally wore ourselves out preaching and teaching and witnessing and living for Him – and, based on so many being disinterested and unmoved, we wondered if whatever kind of crown given us would be bare.

Yet here we stand in review by the King of Kings, every one of us wearing these incomparably magnificent, jewel encrusted crowns symbolizing our lives of service and faithful duty, known and unknown.

It’s understandable.  Who wouldn’t want to bask for a few moments in being thus recognized by God Himself?  After all, we remember . . .

all the times we watched others ‘having fun’ while we ‘were being good’ . . .

all the times we did our level best to represent Christ and were ignored and ridiculed . . .

all the times we did unseen and unnoticed things in God’s name for which others took credit . . .

No one would blame us, right?  “Jesus, could we just kind of be in the moment, here?  Sort of enjoy our Now?  I mean, there are a bunch of jewels in my crown I wasn’t expecting, which more or less make up for some I figured would surely be there.” 

May I break in here?  “Christian” is now almost synonymous with “hateful fanatic”.   Honoring God and His Word is considered extremely narrowminded.  To do those is to invite hurled epithets labeling you every -phobe in the dictionary.

If you dare mention ‘Right’ or ‘Good’ or ‘Truth’ and in any way attach God’s name – or dare bring up Jesus – you incur scathing glares and scalding comments.  And this from too many who claim Jesus as Lord, at least as long as it’s convenient or church lets out, whichever is earliest.

Popular Christ following has for too many become as innocuous as birdwatching.  “Well, yeah, I love Jesus, but I don’ wanna get all fanatical about it, y’know.  And, anyhow, at least I’m not like ___________!”  As if that somehow makes disobedience and spiritual distance from God better.

Sadly, such Christian chameleons develop a keen spiritual arrogance over time that can speak in all the properly ‘churchy’ and humble tones, all the while secretly eyeing the Trinity for any sign of a possible vacancy.

Jesus told us, “Narrow gate, road straight, and not a crowding issue.”  He never rescinded that.  I’d likely enjoy involving myself in some things many professing believers have come to believe is ‘okay’, too.  Frankly, though, I’ve had a rough enough time being God’s man in every situation – and you want to know the truth?  I don’t want to mess up my chance to see my crown and wear it for just a minute or two ~ or however time’s measured where God and the rest of the Family is.

Not for long, though.  I’m going to be totally floored by all Heaven is, and completely stunned to be in the very personal presence of Jesus, my Christ, my Savior, my Redeemer and King.  Standing there, gazing through tear-blurred eyes at the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the Universe, knowing the only reason I’m there is because of Him, staring slack-jawed at HIS crown?  Oh, yeah ~ my crown really isn’t mine . . .

I’ll fall down, I’ll lay my crown, at the feet of Jesus

The greatness of mercy and love, at the feet of Jesus

And I’ll cry, “Holy, holy, holy . . .”

I’ll cry, “Holy, holy, holy . . . “

And I’ll cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb!”

I don’t know about you, friend, but I’m not going to knowingly be or do anything to miss that.

I don’t want you to, either.

© Copyright  D. Dean Boone, August 2019

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A Granger Story – 2nd Cup of Coffee, 2/8/19: THE GRANGER EFFECT – Chapter 3

Glennis

I greeted him, and was surprised by a well-modulated voice somewhere in the second tenor, maybe baritone range.

As I moved toward the chair he showed me, I glanced around his digs.  There was a delightful hodgepodge of things here and there, obviously mementos picked up from travel.  It was definitely a man’s room.  Yet there was nothing messy or needlessly cluttered about it; it was . . . comfortable.  It also had an exotic feel to it – like when you pick up a glove thinking it’s kind of stiff cowhide, but your touch reveals it to be buttery-soft lambskin.

I was so pleasantly rapt in seeing, no, sensing the atmosphere in there I almost missed the music.

It was soft.  I had to stretch my ears to hear it.  It sounded like a jazz trio you’d expect to hear in an upscale eatery.  My mind settled back as I enjoyed the smooth, soft sounds.  It—

     “Scott Hamilton Trio.  Nocturnes and Serenades.

     “I’m sorry; I just noticed it, and I guess I’m a little surprised.  From what I’ve heard, I was expecting maybe some–you know what? I don’t know what I was expecting, to be honest.”

He’d been quietly waiting for me.  I could tell from his amused look I wasn’t the first one to get lost in the lazy swirl of that great music, the just-enough lighting, and whatever roast of coffee he’d just brewed.  And when I say he was waiting, I don’t mean with impatience.  It was more like he was, yeah, comfortable being silent while waiting me out.  Note to self:  you’re not used to men who listen.

     “I like the atmosphere.  It’s conducive to relaxed chatting, which – I’m assuming – is intentional.”

Granger sat quietly for a few more seconds, a musing expression on his face.  “Oh, that’s not just for your benefit, Ms. Witherspoo—“

     “Glennis–please.”

     “Thank you.  Glennis.  Of course, I want you to be at ease, but this really is the way I keep my office.  It helps me concentrate while thinking, reading, and writing.”

I sat listening and sipping my coffee, oddly feeling as though I ought to ask for a menu . . .  Great coffee!  From the logo on this mug, it seems he enjoys Howya Bean, too.  Self-conscious, I glanced up and tipped the mug toward him, smiling with appreciation.

     “Great coffee.  It’s smooth, robust and fragrant.  What is it?”  Granger’s eyes fixed on Somewhere Else as he mulled – a thoughtful, inner-penetrating gaze I would learn was a trademark of his.

     “I think that might be Beartooth Mountain Roast from up in Montana.”  I took another grateful sip, studying him over the lip of the mug.  His smile was wispy, almost not there.  “I don’t make bad coffee.”  You know?  Somehow, I believed him.

I thought I was being nonchalant in casually pulling out my black PaperMate Inkjoy retractable gel pen, laying it at a jaunty angle on my pad.  Ms. Interviewer of 2003.  None of that ugly, garish, Century 21 bling for this event.  See, when I’m doing a serious interview, I only use my best pen.  The gesture would be lost on him, but I’d know I used my best.

I’d halfway noticed the greenery as I walked in.  Sipping again the fragrant, smoky coffee, I focused on the lush areca palm almost brushing the ceiling.  There was another type of palm next to the big one, and I noticed it had a couple of shoots growing out of what looked like a broken-off stalk . . . And sort of a green thumb, too.  Huh. I wond—

He was waiting for me again.  That took some getting used to for me.  It’s odd.  I’d never met a man so–present?  Contained?  I was probably right the first time:  he was comfortable, okay with being there in the moment, not intruding on my reverie.  Most men love attention, I thought.  They’re perfectly willing to talk about themselves.  Granger seems okay in just waiting for me.  I’m thinking there’s a lot more of a story here than I first thought.  But I’m gonna have to dig it out myself.  Dad gum . . .

When I’d first arranged to go to his office to interview him, he’d made clear he would respond to my questions unless they strayed into being too personal or I asked them wrong.  He’d been – was being – true to his word.  He had not, however, volunteered anything.  I’m having to craft these questions carefully.

I suddenly realized he’d gone quiet again.  I bobbed my head guiltily.  After a moment, he said, “You mentioned drawing conclusions about me because of what you had heard.  Can you help me understand what you’ve heard that would lead you to think that way?”

It wasn’t just silence.  I mean, there was the musical subflooring, the soft tocking of a clock somewhere in the room . . .  No.  It was more than the absence of sound, almost as if his emotions and thoughts were settling on his soul’s foundation.  After asking his question, Granger seemed to go still, and his eyes almost glowed with a hazel intensity not there before, highlighting his thinking.  It was a complex expression, remote, yet beckoning, that seemed to look behind my words for my meaning.

That would be the first such encounter alerting me I was about to realize one of the things about this uncommon man that drew such fierce loyalty and enduring friendship to himself . . .

Granger sat observing me as I marshaled my thoughts.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable and he was not impolite.  It was scrutiny, yes–but more.  His quiet gaze wasn’t invasive to the point of embarrassment; yet I found myself, perhaps for the first time, not in control of my own interview.

Maybe that’s what was bugging me.  I’m no shrinking petunia.  I’ve been a professional reporter and journalist for twenty-six years and this ain’t my first shindig.

In an almost-effortless transfer, I found our roles reversed:  I the interviewee, Granger shaping the questions and guiding the conversation.  It was throwing me off my A-game.  My nerves were on edge and fuzzy.

Granger glanced at the electronic pad he had on the little table beside his chair, touched it twice, then settled back.

     “By all means, ask your first question.”  He had the merest gentle smile quirking one corner of his mouth.  His eyes were on mine, and he seemed totally at ease.  It helped settle the grounds of my irritated nerves.  Here goes, I thought.

     “Where did you get started doing what you do?”

Granger did what I’d quickly learn was his habit.  He was still for a couple of seconds, considering what I’d asked and forming his reply before saying a word.  It was almost as if he were choosing between several possible replies.

     “I chose to be an encourager.  I’ve a close friend who’s laid it out well, so I’ve borrowed his life purpose, his ‘contract’, if you will.  It’s this:  To lift, encourage, edify, and challenge those whose lives I touch to personal and spiritual excellence.”

     “All people – including you – are more complex than even they sometimes know . . .”   As I pondered his interesting verbal entrance, it dawned on me we were listening now to some light classical music.  “I want to invite them to let those often-unknown pieces of who and what they are out.  To reveal and appreciate the wonderful layers of their personalities and characters, like exploring some just-made Greek baclava, one layer at a time.”

I sat, a little slack-jawed, so quiet my blinking eyelashes swished, letting his words lightly flutter in the easy waves of the soft music while I let their meaning firm up in my mind.  Full disclosure:  my mouth was watering, too.  I’m a sucker for fresh baclava.

     “So much discourse, public and private, takes place on such a surface level that we rarely notice, let alone learn to appreciate, one another’s depth.  We each bear the unmistakable signature of every life event that has been part of our individual journeys.  It’s a signature intensely personalized by scars left, lessons learned, experiences weathered–there’s an infinite number of those things, and much more, that creates the rich soil from which every one of us grows.  We all are the sum of our own choices, of our own journeys.”  Granger paused, that easy silence sluicing over his words like the diminishing wake-wash of a passing boat.

I slowly nodded that I was with him. 

     “Okay.  Say more.”

He paused long enough to get up, cross the room, and pick up the carafe of coffee.  Turning, he raised his eyebrows and I nodded.  Refilling my cup, he filled his own cup back up, and as he sat the carafe down by his chair, I could see he was already forming his next thoughts.  Oops.  A man who thinks on his feet.  Warning, Will Robinson…

     “I want to encourage the disappointed and discouraged, the rejected, the overlooked, the bypassed; the also-rans, the second-best–I want to offer an audience, to actively listen to those trying to heal from things they can’t or won’t discuss with anyone — and may not have even admitted to themselves.”

I couldn’t help myself.  “Wow.  That’s ambitious.  How do you go about that?  With 7 billion people in the world, where do you start?  And, above all, why?”  For a brief second, something flickered in his eyes as he paused before responding.

     “Because we’ve all been there.  And no one’s asked how it feels to lose out, to be taken for granted, to have years of steady, solid work credited to someone else – or entirely overlooked.  Because only Blue Ribbon First-Placers get the notoriety and interviews, some truly terrific people go completely ignored.  We hear onlookers say, “Well, hang in there.”  Hanging in there gets real old, real fast.  I’ve had to do it too often, and I want to help others see there’s a better alternative.   My mission is to come alongside them, to appreciate their investment of time, resources and energy that’s gotten them this far.”

I sat absorbing Granger’s words.  There was a dynamic, humming, vibrating passion energizing them; it was almost palpable.  I could feel their impact.

     “So, aren’t you opening yourself up to be hurt like that?  People can be messy when dealing with their past, trying to put into words things that’ve been buried for so long.”

He rewarded me with one of those hazel penetrating looks.  “That’s a helpful insight.  Sure; hurting people sometimes snap at those trying to help them.  But the effort is worth it.  It’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

I was thinking right along with him. 

     “But at what cost to your own spirit?  Isn’t there a cumulative effect?  When will you know when you’ve had enough of ‘through-helping’ everyone else?”  His response caused a slight mental shock.

     “I’m not the Dead Sea.  Creativity has no limit.  As long as I have an outlet, there’ll always be room within my spirit for God to pour His wisdom and grace through . . . “

Granger paused.  By now I knew enough to wait.

     “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.  I think Jack Canfield said that.  In some cases it may be too late, because as we progress through this life, its various experiences and their results do intrude.  That doesn’t matter.  If you get the chance, take it!”  There was a different timbre in his voice as he said that; I glanced up from where I’d been doodling on my pad and saw a force behind his gaze highlighting the statement.  And here I thought steel only came in dull grey.

The more I listened to and observed Granger, the more fascinated I became.  He hadn’t moved, hadn’t changed his position, and hadn’t even raised his voice much.  Yet something in the room changed.  It was as if what had been a general response to my questions about him had quickly shifted to a laser focused, singularly attentive, positive challenge for me.

Though his gaze and scrutiny were more intense, I was not uncomfortable. I sensed no criticism nor censure, but instead a solid wall of esteem.  He felt like an older brother, a mentor intent on drawing out of me the absolute best I had to offer.

      “. . . relit by an encounter with——”  I’d been looking around inside my own thoughts and was startled to hear he’d been speaking again.  Granger grinned at me and started over.

     “Albert Schweitzer once said there are times in everyone’s life when our inner fire goes out.  It’s then relit by an encounter with another human being.”  He paused, then continued.  “My aim is to be that person who rekindles the flame in the inner spirit of another.”

     “There aren’t a lot of us around, and we’re all different.  A teacher named John Gatto wrote, ‘Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist.’  The last thing to which I aspire is to be a conformist.”

Granger relaxed then, quietly sipping his coffee.  It was clear to me he was in a comfortable place, as if he and I’d been walking along while conversing, and had stepped out into a warm, sunny clearing with a small creek on the other side, lightly chuckling over rocks long since worn smooth by the water’s soft insistence.

I was ready with my pen this time as the coffee mug came back down on final. 

     “There are a select few who will touch your life in the most meaningful way.  After meeting or remeeting them, their souls will leave an imprint in your heart, and from then on you will never again be the same.

     “I work to be being one of those people.

     “I want to spend every moment of my time here being worth knowing rather than striving to be well-known.”

Granger sat back, observing me trying to absorb all I’d just received.  His demeanor subtly changed, creating a welcoming warmth that drew me and my concerns in.  I felt——

I felt included.  Valued.  Cared about.  I can’t explain the difference; I just know how I felt, which was that I could tell him anything and it would be safe with him.  I could trust him.

I don’t remember much of the wrapping up niceties; the Granger effect had left its influence on me.  I was in my trusty little tan Camry, blocks away and in a reflective, pleasant fog when it hit me:  I’d left my best pen!

Grits!

 

© Copyright D. Dean Boone, August 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Encouragement, Inspirational, Tell-A-Story-Make-A-Point | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

2nd Cup of Coffee, 4/8/19: WHO YOU TALKIN’ FOR?

4-year-old Randall was eating an apple in the back seat of the SUV, when he asked, “Daddy?  Um, why is my appo tuhning bwown?”

Clearing his throat, his father began.  “It turns brown because after you ate the skin off, the meat of the apple was exposed to the air which caused it to oxidize, thus changing the molecular structure and turning it into a different color.”

There was a long silence.  Then the boy asked softly, “Daddy, ah you talking to me?”

Being a great communicator involves more than enjoying the sound of your own voice.  It’s more than trotting out your fifteen or twenty favorite sayings you’ve had memorized for years.

Randall’s dad was proud of his smooth response and feeling good about teaching his son something new–right up until it became clear he’d forgotten who he was answering.  His task was not to show off how bright he was.

It was to inform his little boy.

© D. Dean Boone, April 2019

 

 

 

 

Categories: Common Sense, Tell-A-Story-Make-A-Point, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment