Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't Be The One

I recently contacted a very talented acquaintance of mine in reference to a piece of her work; work that I truly enjoyed.  She responded graciously, but in that response I found myself taken back by something my new friend revealed to me.   She thanked me for my kind words and told me that they were a welcomed change to some of the notes and e-mails that she receives on a regular basis.

“I needed a smile tonight…you can’t imagine how nice it is to see your name in my inbox.”

I’ll be honest; when I read her remark I was confused.  I mean her work is impeccable.  The thought that anyone could think otherwise was simply – or perhaps complexly – foreign to me. How could I marvel at the talent that God gave this person and the way she uses that talent to honor God, while someone else criticized and demeaned her innate skill? 

As a singer, songwriter, and even as a radio host, I know first hand what it’s like to put your work out there for the world to see and hear. It isn’t easy, especially if discouragement has been a familiar theme in your life.  There have been tymes when I worried myself sick over what people would think. Will they like it? And by “it” I mean me. After all, my work is a part of me, right?

Suffice it to write that after reading my new friend’s message, I felt her words deeply; perhaps more deeply than she intended me to.  My instinct was to write back and tell this person that those other people were crazy and she need not concern herself with their inferior opinions.  As I considered my words though I realized that nothing I would write could take away the hurt of someone’s negative comments.

Have you ever noticed that a thousand compliments cannot soothe the pain of one insult?  Why is that?  Why are the unkind words easier to believe than the caring ones?  It’s true that not everyone reacts to an insult in the same way.  Some will refute it and use it to fuel their fire to prove the insulter wrong, while some believe it and let it prevent them from achieving their goals. Others will try to push it aside and continue forward, but with tentative steps, always expecting the next insulting shoe to fall.  The commonality? No matter how it influences a person, an insult is remembered.

Even though kind words cannot combat the mean ones, they do help to soften the blow when others choose to hurl insults.  If we enjoy the talent that God’s given someone, we should tell the person.  If someone is using his or her talent to honor God, we should applaud the person.  If we don’t like something, we should apply the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

The truth of the matter is we are not going to like everything that a person says or does. We’re not going to like every opinion a person has, everything a person creates or every choice a person makes. We, however, each have a choice of our own every tyme we open our mouths, set our fingers to the keys, or put a pen to paper; we can build up or we can tear down. We can offer encouragement to someone or we can be a stumbling block in someone’s life.  

So, do I plan to write back to my acquaintance and offer her some encouraging words? Absolutely.  Why? Well, because they are true and she deserves to read them – and also because I want her to continue on with her work so I can enjoy the next installment.  :)  And while I know that my kind words won’t heal the damage done by somebody's callous ones, I hope she will draw on them when she needs an uplifting reminder of the good she’s doing for God and for others.

Don’t be the one insult - be one of the thousand compliments. 

-L.D. Kirklin-

Monday, March 24, 2014

Paging Through Life

When I joined Facebook a few years back it was at my sister’s prompting so she could use it as a means of universal communication and picture sharing.  Now, a few years later, I have several hundred friends on my account, some of whom I see regularly, some I don’t get to see often, but keep in touch with, some I haven’t seen or talked with since High School graduation and some I have never met or even spoken with.  I have to admit, it’s quite the eclectic posse of comrades.

A few years ago I went to a local book fair and while little captured my interest, there was one book that I bought based solely on its description.  I’d never read anything by this particular author, so I wasn’t sure what to expect; I can be very picky when it comes to what I read – okay, okay, I can be very picky about a lot of things, but that is on a mountain of things that is beside the point.

It turns out the book was good, so good in fact that after finishing the story I wanted to contact the author and tell her how much I enjoyed her work.  So, in this seemingly instant world in which we live, I logged on to Facebook and sure enough, the author had an account.  I ended up sending her a message expressing my enjoyment of the book to which she responded graciously.  Shortly thereafter we became the ‘we-haven’t-met-but-share-common-interests’ kind of friends.  You know, “Facebook friends”.

It wasn’t long before I started to see my author friend’s posts that related, not to her writing, but to her personally. Through them, in a way, I was getting to know this person I’d never met.  One day I saw that she posted a journal entry about her grandmother’s house!  This person and I became ‘friends’ because of her writing, so naturally I was excited to read the article.  

As it happened, the entry was about her grandmother’s house burning down.  Though the event was sad, the article was good, heartfelt and optimistic, but I found myself feeling angry over it more than anything.  You see, in the article she wrote of her wonderful childhood and her loving family.  She painted this wonderful picture of happy tymes with her family in her grandmother’s house.  The picture was bright and colorful and very unlike my own childhood experience and that made me angry.

WHY?  I said to God.  Why did she get this great childhood when I had to go through what I did?  Why did she get happiness when I got fear?”  Oh, I asked all kinds of questions comparing this friend’s situation to my own until I was about to shake with disgust over the unfairness of it.  But then, just before my shaking point, God answered.  “To help others”, He said.

Even though I knew it, God reaffirmed to me that He had not put me through the hardships of my childhood, but that He had been there with me, helping me through them.  Then He brought some people to mind and made me realize that had I not gone through my trials I wouldn’t be able to understand theirs.  I wouldn’t be able to listen their problems and offer sound and helpful advice.  I wouldn’t be able to honestly tell them that I’ve been there or convey the love and power of God that saw me through.

You see I know from experience that some tymes you just need to hear from someone who’s been there and who’s come through ‘it’.  While every experience is unique to itself, I know that some tymes you just need to see someone’s scars and hear their stories in order to believe that everything is going to be okay.  

In the end I was glad I read my friend’s article because it made me realize – yet again – we all have the same job that God has called us to do: tell others about Him.  Some can use happy memories to illustrate God’s love, while others can use triumph over trials to prove God’s power.  Some can use their daily walk to show God’s faithfulness while others can use their talents to showcase God’s blessings.  

The bottom line is, no one can compare his or her story to that of anyone else.  All each of us can do is take what we’ve been through, what we’re going through or what we’re facing and use it to help others see God.  Because if God knows the name of every star in every galaxy (Psalm 147:4), surely He knows you and me and His plan for each us is long-term-perfect even if the short-term seems far from it.  So as you page your way through each new day, just remember that with God as the Author, you can face any book He asks you to read or write!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My "Lot" in Life

It was the first truly warm, beautiful day we’d had in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia since a rather harsh, seeming endless winter.  The sky, while it started out with some substantial clouds in the early morning, had cheered up to a brilliant blue and a bright, foreign ball-like object in the sky, which I recognized later as the sun, had warmed the air up to 60 degrees. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day – at least weather wise anyway.

My day started at four o’clock in the morning and by eleven o’clock I was already at job number two – and had even managed to get a run in at the gym.  I went from ON-AIR radio host to a worked out security guard with the snap of my fingers and a change of clothes.  I was pretty proud of myself in regard to my productive day until I got posted in an empty parking lot with orders to keep it empty on one of the busiest days of the year for that particular complex.

Have you ever had to stand alone in a parking lot for hours with literally nothing to do? Well, such a task is not fun if you’re geared anything like me.  About fifteen minutes in to my five hour shift I was about to go stir crazy when all of a sudden a brilliant red cardinal flew into one of the trees bordering my lot. This wonderfully beautiful creature commenced to serenade me and for the next forty-five minutes he kept me company with his lovely songs.  I felt like the beneficiary of a private concert – in a way, I was.

Then, in what seemed like way too short of a spell, my fine-feathered singing sensation started to flit around from tree to tree; it was clear he was moving on to the thicket across the busy road.  Before he got too far away I said to the cardinal, Kayden I’d named him, “Mr. Cardinal, you be sure to come back when I’m ready to get off post so I can take your picture.”  With that, Kayden the Cardinal flew away. 

The next four hours on my post were practically torture; the fine weather being the only joy the job afforded. Toward the end of my shift however, the clouds were starting to return and the sun began playing hide-and-seek with them.  In my bored and now weary state I forgot about visitor from before and all I could think about was getting my end call. 

About five minutes before that call came in, who do you think showed up in the same spot of the same tree? Kayden the Cardinal!  He started in on another concert and I listened intently until I heard, “Attention all gates. Bring it in.”  With that I walked with haste to turn in my gear and my reports.  With in minutes I was back at my post, this tyme with camera in hand, and captured some wonderful shots of my beautiful, serenading friend.  I went home smiling and praising the Creator for His handiwork and for sending me a reminder that even when my lot in life seems lonely and weary He is always there to lift my spirits!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Twenty Second Climb

It’s a foreign concept to a lot of people, but I like to work hard and sweat!  There’s something about putting your whole heart into a task that makes a good outcome all the more enjoyable and a less desirable outcome far easier to tolerate.  Knowing you did what you were able and you tried with everything you had, well, what more could anyone ask?

One of my favorite ways to work hard and sweat, get ready for another far-off concept, is to go the gym.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to walk and ride bike outside and enjoy the handiwork of The Creator, but the gym provides me with a much needed and highly valuable structure – and yes, that is subtle of articulating that knowing I paid for my gym membership makes me go and exercise.
There are a lot of workout options at the gym from weights and strength training to treadmills and stationary bikes – the kind with computer screens that allow you to ride through the Italian countryside and such – and so long as you keep changing up your workouts, is easy to stay engaged and excited about exercising.  Of course there are tasks which put that theory to the test and one of them is the stair-climber!

Lately I’ve taken to climbing stairs as part of my workout routine which is great for all aspects of my goal; cardio training, muscle toning and fat burning. The problem is, climbing multiple flights of stairs is hard work! Now I know what you’re thinking and your right, it is fortunate for me that I like to work hard and sweat, but depending on the speed I choose to climb the stairs, well, it’s about all I can do just to make it to the top, and, in the interest of full disclosure, there’ve been several tymes where I came super close to stopping before I reached the top– one such tyme was this past Monday.
As usual, I started out full of determination and pep, prepared for the twenty minute ascent to the conceptual summit, however this tyme I decided to put myself to the test and do my full climb on a level ten as opposed to the level nine/ten split which was my norm.  About halfway through the climb I realized my goal was a bit overzealous and about three quarters of the way through the climb I realized that my goal was completely overzealous and I desperately wanted to press the stop button.

As I fought the battle between fatigue and failure, I noticed that on the machine’s display there was a counter that was nearing its end and when it hit zero it reset for twenty seconds; it was counting down the tyme until the resistance levels changed.  I started focusing on that little counter and said to myself, “You can do anything for twenty seconds”.  Now granted, with five minutes remaining, I had to say that to myself fifteen tymes, but it shifted my focus from the huge, seemingly unattainable goal to a small, easily accomplished one.  I ended up reaching my goal…95 flights of stairs in twenty minutes.

Later when I thought about how I almost quit and what I did to make it through, I realized that in the climb of life, God needs to be my twenty second counter.  How much easier would my tasks and goals if I told myself “You can do anything with God”?  When I focus my thoughts on God and His plans, my seemingly unobtainable tasks on Earth become small, easily managed missions.  God did not intend for us to climb through life on our own and when take Him with us, we don’t have the burden of staring up the endless flights of stairs, we simple have to step up the steps.  

So the next tyme you face a task in life that makes you want to push the stop button and give up the climb, just take twenty seconds and tell yourself you can do it with God’s help.  With God as your twenty second counter, you’ll reach the summit in no tyme!