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Archive for August, 2009

Hospitable

The house was filling up with guests. Though it was cloudy and grey outside, everything was warm and welcoming inside, as friends old and new crowded in to mingle, and to congratulate a young man on the new chapter in his life.

Our family is used to having lots of folks over. All, that is, except one member. She was recently adopted. And actually, we were a bit worried about her. How would she react to all the arms, legs, faces, and voices? Some she had met before, and the introductions had gone well, but this would be the first time she’d see such a large group invading her home base, her personal space. Would she go off in a corner, afraid of all the chaos? Would she pitch a fit and pierce the noise with an embarrassing display of even more noise?

Mystic5smWould she bark at the guests?

Not to worry. Mystic was the model of canine friendliness, even in the crowd. Everyone was worthy of a sniff and a wag, and no pat on the head was refused. No plate (or its owner) was left unexamined in hope of a handout. Only nine months into this life, our black lab mix showed that she was, in some small way, a party animal.

Dear friends of ours recently lost their chocolate lab to a sudden medical condition. Everyone knew Riley, a big cream puff of a dog who never met a stranger. The welcome mat is always out at that house; an endless stream of people have gone through that front door, generally with a 4-pawed greeter named Riley leading the reception. Our friends would speak about how Riley was an example of hospitality.

We all want our dogs to be loyal, affectionate, and well-mannered companions. But that’s a new one. Hospitable. I like that. May she always abound in that endearing trait!

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Connect with Steve Woodruff

Twitter: @swoodruff

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Fully Invested

A lot of the people we meet seem to be half-hearted in their involvement with ___________ (fill-in-the-blank). And, truth be told, perhaps we aren’t fully invested in some of our responsibilities, or in some of the people in our care.

I was reading about an example of someone this morning who was clearly fully-invested in others.

What does a “fully-invested” person look like? Here’s a few things I thought of:

Devoted. Not just hands reaching out, but heart as well.

Committed. Not a drive-by person, but someone who is THERE, present, in good times or bad.

Out-looking. That is, when you look into this person’s eyes, you see someone looking OUT into yours, not calculating a WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

Creative. Because this person is “all-in,” creative powers are unleashed to bring about a good result.

Free. Paradoxically enough, a fully-invested person is liberated from the tyranny of fear.

Do you have fully-invested people in your life? What characteristics do you see?

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Connect with Steve Woodruff

Twitter: @swoodruff

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Failure, or Fail-er?

Some words are pretty innocuous, and don’t create a lot of heart-reaction.

Dish, for instance. Or paper. Or flagellum (except for certain research scientists, perhaps, or microbiology majors studying for a final exam).

But “failure” comes with a lot of emotional baggage. It is freighted with meaning, usually negative, and often speckled with the unique memories of individual stumbles of the past, best left undisturbed under layers of busy forgetfulness.

Who wants to dwell on failure? Some, however, compulsively cannot stop doing so. Failure is the elevator speech of their soul. Maybe not outwardly. But inwardly, the monologue goes like this: You’re a failure. You’re a failure. You’re a failure. A bit short on eloquence, I’ll grant. But long on effectiveness. Wear it with…humiliation, like a black t-shirt that refuses to come off.

Failure T

“Failure” can be a useful term, when viewed through the correct lens. But it can also be a deadly cataract, a slayer of personal ambition and esteem, when it infuses the cornea of its wearer with dark shades that distort and dim the entire landscape. The optometrist can fix up nearsightedness with a corrective prescription. But this kind of emotional astigmatism needs a different treatment plan.

“That was a failure” can be a learning moment. When the thought of the heart is “I am a failure” – that’s when you’re in the danger zone. The trick is to openly acknowledge the one, while not slipping down the slope into the other. “I failed at _____ this time” might lead to a little laceration above the eye. “I’m a loser” is the knockout punch.

No-one escapes failure. If you’re not failing at something, then you’re not trying. Our little ones “fail” constantly as they learn to take their first steps, but we don’t consider them failures – we know that each failure gets her closer to success. So why would our mistakes and failings make us failures? If we’re not good at one thing at one time, does that mean we’re no good…period?

That attractive, successful, vivacious person you wish you were like? That person fails miserably, in many ways – you just don’t see it through the idealized and envious glasses you’ve put on. But sometimes, those very people who seem to have it all are haunted by an inner conviction that they are utter failures. Like a gnawing cancer, that deep and dangerous conviction chews at the soul, magnifying each little individual stumble into yet another prosecutor on the bench, spilling out the evidence that you are not merely human, but an absolute fraud. That’s not sound judgment or conscience speaking. It’s Cupid’s alter ego, firing hateful arrows from a never-empty quiver.

Then life becomes about one of two things. Shrinking back into despair. Or driving forward against the emotional tidal wave to prove yourself. In both cases, however, the engine that drives it is not, “I failed at something – now what can I learn?” It’s not, “How can I make this right?” It’s far more insidious. “See – I’m just a failure.”

Failure. Roll the word over in your mind – doesn’t it have an inescapable finality about it? And isn’t it, when you step back a bit, kind of a stupid nickname to give yourself? With all the unique gifts and abilities you possess, all the good you can do for the people around you – to wallow around in self-accusing misery is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because then you won’t feel like getting up again.

How do we still that voice? Here’s a suggestion, which you might want to try out this week. Just alter the word a bit – a little tiny bit, hopefully staying under the radar of our word police. “I’m a fail-er.” Just drop the accusing “you” from the pronunciation, and suddenly, it really doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, it sounds a lot like being just another member of the human race. A fail-er. A fail-er can get up again and keep going, because…well, that’s what we do, from infancy on. Fail. Learn. Move forward.

I’m a fail-er, then. Hmmmmm – that sounds kind of…normal, all of a sudden. Might not even hesitate to wear it on a t-shirt, with that little spelling switcheroo. So what do you think – which word describes you? Are you a Failure, or a Fail-er?

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There are many things I never would have said, back in the prehistoric era when I was 7 years old.

One example: “I lost my data!”

Our youngest, Seth, has grown up with the dubious privilege of being surrounded by computers and digital gadgetry from the moment he left the womb. Our final child, his earliest days were the first in our tribe to be documented with a digital camera. He was operating a mouse by age two. He’s quicker on remote controls than his archaic parents, and he regularly beats me on the Wii.  I’m a digital immigrant. He’s a digital native.

One day last week, he was clearly steamed about something (it’s not hard to tell with this kid, he pretty much wears it on his sleeve). As is his wont, he clearly articulated his emotional state: “I’m really frustrated…” then gave the reason: “because I lost my data!” Turns out a computer game he was advancing in got shut down before he saved his current level…his “data.”

Lost. My. Data.

At that age, I wouldn’t have known data from Dali (wouldn’t have known Dali, either). Mice got caught in traps. Software was a pair of cotton briefs. Servers worked in restaurants, except back then they were called waiters.

I knew it was a new era when this boy picked up my new iPhone last year and started navigating his way around it like a toddler playing with his blocks. Learning curve: zero. No fear. No hesitation. It just makes sense to these critters.

I hope I can keep up. Because as the years march on, I worry about my processor speed. And especially, about losing my data…!

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Connect with Steve Woodruff

Twitter: @swoodruff

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Still

SunriseStillnesssmEveryone who knows me knows that I’m a morning person. An early morning person. Sorry if you’re a hater, but I like the quiet of those early hours, and it’s the most productive time of the day for me.

It’s when most things are still. I need that.

You see, I don’t do “still” very well – at least internally. My mind doesn’t shut off readily – it’s a NASCAR track of thoughts that only recognize the green flag . And I think about action, not waiting passively. Do. Become. Create. Structure. Make it so.

Is that a good thing? Many times, yes. But then, the Scripture says to “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Good Shepherd “leads (us) beside quiet waters.” “Wait for the Lord…” Sure, I know the principles. But can I just kinda make stuff happen in the meantime?

Being still – not my forte.

You’d think, after all these years, that I’d learn to step back and rest. To shut down the treadmill and amble on the slow path for a bit. So that’s what I’ve been seeking to do this week. And realizing that it really is far more important to trust, embrace the moment, and rest in who I am, than to plot out all the right actions.

Moving forward is good. Sometimes, however, it makes more sense to rest on the moving walkway, than keep hoofin’ it through the airport.

Still learning to be still.

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Connect with Steve Woodruff

Twitter: @swoodruff

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