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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's All About Who You Know

I got to sing for a very special birthday party last weekend. Azle Elementary School (aka “The Rock”) turned 100 years old.  The building that started out as Azle High School in 1912 has been a campus for grades 5-6 for as long as I can remember. 
As a resident of Azle for the past 21 years, I am accustomed to getting invitations to sing or speak at special events.  This invitation, however, came because they needed a last minute pinch hitter.  The celebration organizers had put together a great lineup of former “Rock” students representing several generations to entertain visitors at the big shindig.  Two days before the event, the person scheduled for the 9:30-10:00 a.m. time slot had to cancel.  After the initial panic, someone suggested they call me.  “But he didn’t go to school here,” someone said.  “Both his kids did,” said someone else, “and that’s close enough.”  Fortunately, I had a couple of open hours on Saturday morning and was able to fill in.
I got to thinking about all the opportunities that have come to me because of relationships.  I was on that stage Saturday first of all because I am Tova and Zeke’s dad and I got to know their teachers when they went to school there.  I’ve been involved in events because of whose dad, husband, son, nephew, grandson, son-in-law, or friend I am.  I have a website (gerrylewisonline.com) that describes a lot of the things I have done and for which I am available, but I can’t recall a single time that someone found out about me there and invited me to participate in their event.  Pretty much every invitation has come because someone who knows me recommended me to someone else.
That is a humbling reminder that life is about relationships. Each one of us has had someone who connected us with someone else.  Think of that person who served as a reference to help you get a job.  Or the person who introduced you to your spouse.  Or the lifelong friend you made because your kids were on the same t-ball team.
For many of us, we can think of the person, or perhaps several different persons, who introduced us to faith.  For those of us who have a personal relationship with Christ, it almost never happened without someone else’s influence.
I am even thinking about what the end of life will be like.  If I understand the Bible correctly, there will be a time when I come into the presence of God.  The only way I will get to remain in His presence is because of Someone else.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Our lives matter so much to God that He puts the right connections in place for us.  I am so thankful for those who have connected me.
Now, who can I connect?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Looking Through Eyes of Love

For two evenings last weekend, I was in the audience to see my son perform in the title role in West Texas A&M’s performance of The Elephant Man.  This true story of a 19th century Englishman with severe physical deformities is a powerful piece of theater as well as a glimpse into the good and the bad of humanity.  Click here to read more of the true story and see actual photos.
As a proud and completely biased father, I can tell you that my son was amazing as Merrick.  The fact that I am biased does not make it any less true.  I have seen enough theater to know good acting when I see it and I was mesmerized.  No special effects or prosthetics were used to create the hideous deformities of Joseph Merrick.  The illusion was created by acting and posture.  I could go on and on.
But I won’t.
I really don’t want this week’s blog to be about my son or about the play.  I want to focus on how we see people.  Last week I wrote about noticing people, not being oblivious to those around us.  This week I am thinking more about how we often arbitrarily place value on individuals based on external appearances.  And I am thinking about how often we are wrong.
My friend, Perry Clark, was born with cerebral palsy 72 years ago.  He has to have a walker to get around and his speech is difficult to understand.  There are those who think he doesn’t have much to offer to the world, but there are few people I have known who love as deeply and loyally as Perry.  He has a quick wit and is a joy to be around.  I got to spend a little time with him one evening this past week for the first time in several years.  The blessing was mine.  That’s someone I know.
In the audience at the play one night was a young man who was obviously born with extreme physical deformities in his arms and legs.  He sat in the row behind us.  I did not speak with him, but I heard his insightful conversation with his companions during intermission.  That’s someone I don’t know.  I wonder how many times in his life he has been undervalued because of his physical appearance.
Like Joseph Merrick, most people with physical or mental disabilities don’t want to be pitied and avoided.  They want to be valued. They want to have friends.  They want to contribute.  They want to have conversations.  They want to be treated like people.
Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us to treat every person as someone whose life matters, someone who was created in the image of God (on the inside where it really matters), and someone for whose sins Jesus died.
God, give us loving eyes so we can see like You.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stuff You Need to Know

Life lessons: observations learned either from experience or from observation that can, if implemented, result in an improved state of well-being.
That’s probably not the “correct” definition.  I just made it up.  I know the value of research and precision.  I’m just not concerned about that at the moment.  At least no one can accuse me of plagiarism.  If I were to write a book about the life lessons I’m talking about, I might call it “Stuff You Need to Know to Keep You from Doing Really Dumb Stuff”.
I can see the table of contents now.  Chapter 1, “Don’t Keep Your Arthritis Cream and Your Hemorrhoid Ointment in the Same Drawer.”  Chapter 2, “Don’t Sunbathe Naked If You Don’t Want People to See You Naked.”  Chapter 3, “If You Are Attractive and Famous and You Sunbathe Naked, Don’t Be Mad if Someone Takes a Picture and Shows it Off.”  Chapter 4, “How About Just Not Sunbathing Naked.”
That’s enough for now.  I need to leave something for the book.
I learned another lesson recently when Mrs. Sweetie and I met some friends for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  The food was great as usual and the conversation was even better.  I can’t think of many ways I would rather spend an hour and a half on a Friday evening.  When the time came to leave, the line at the cashier was a little long and we had spotted another couple of dear friends who were at another table, so we sat down to visit with them to wait 5 minutes for the line to shorten.  That 5 turned into 30 and we were on a roll again.
Suddenly, our server from the previous table appeared.  “You’re still here!” With tears in her eyes, she told us that she thought we had walked our ticket and she was going to have to pay for our meal out of her pocket.  I had been sitting there with the ticket and my debit card in my hand the entire time!  We felt terrible that we had put her through that.  I don’t know her story, but I know that if my $25 ticket brought her to tears, she really needs the money.  I learned a life lesson that evening and I won’t ever put another restaurant server through that again.
This small lesson that reminded me of a greater one:  I am not the center of the universe.  I don’t believe I am, but if I am oblivious to people around me and act like it is all about me, what I believe is irrelevant.  Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us to honor the lives around us.
Now that’s some good stuff.