Friday, October 27, 2006

Ben Franklin was from the future

“Ben Franklin was from the future,” states a comical theorist as he reflects on the advancements of Mr. Franklin. The conversation arose as we discussed Franklin and his inventions and political involvement. Franklin, the inventor of bifocals, a glass harmonica, a rocking chair that swatted flies, and a heating stove, also traveled to France to woo them to assist the colonies in the Revolutionary War.

Franklin’s influence marks us even this every day. In 1784, Ben Franklin suggested an idea called Daylight Savings Time. Because winter months bring less hours of daylight, Franklin proposed turning clocks back one hour to gain more sunlight. This should increase hours of production for everyone. According to the very words of Franklin, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Our country did not rally behind Franklin’s idea until after World War I. Some sporadic states across the nation, however, decided to turn their clocks back. After much confusion for the Department of Transportation, railways, and a growing television industry, leaders decided that our country should be consistent in the time change.

How can we persuade everyone to make a small change?

Daylight Savings Time actually is quite revolutionary. Most of the planet takes a moment to change time literally as they adjust their clocks before heading off to bed. That small act of change causes entire cities, states, and even nations to move at a new pace. Humanity in those places changes together.

My uncle, Doss, raises mules on his farm. We were discussing Daylight Savings Time at dinner. My trivia question concerning which states did not observe DST led to his agricultural comments on the idea. According to my uncle, farmers have a difficult time with the time change. The cows do not turn their clocks back! Milk production must sacrifice an hour if the farmers observe the new time change. It takes months for the cows to adjust.

Small changes made by a large population lead have global effects. If someone decided to protest DST, then he or she would be late to everything until an adjustment is made. The decision of the masses wins. What would happen if the masses decided to use their monumental influence for other kinds of change?

Imagine everyone that adjusts their alarm clocks and watches tonight took one dollar and donated it to the poor first thing in the morning. Billions of dollars would be given away. What if those billions of people stopped and turned their clocks back, said a prayer, and forgave one person before falling asleep? The social and spiritual climate of our world would change.

Jesus tells about people who were left with decisions concerning loving their neighbor or continuing to observe the cultural laws of the land. Along the way, someone decides to make changes, universal adjustments that would change everything. The Good Samaritan stopped and helped the wounded man. The prodigal father celebrates the return of a sinful, lost son. The man throws a party and invites the poor to celebrate with him. May our lives reflect the people who stopped everything to do good. Today, as time is given back, we should use that time to change a life.

Turning our clocks back one hour offers each of us one more hour today. Make that hour count. Everyone complains incessantly about not having enough time. Now, the universe handed you an hour. Use it wisely because you will have to give it back in the Spring.

Sand Art

While living in Los Angeles a few years ago, I had an opportunity to visit a Buddhist temple. One of my students who also loved art joined me.

The temple housed the artwork of the monks there. For weeks, they had been working on creating amazingly intricate pieces of art, called mandalas, which use sand as their medium. The hairline swirls and blended colors reflected the precision of the monks in placing each grain of sand.

The stunning beauty of the sand mandalas held a sense of sadness for me as I imagined them soon disappearing. After the monks complete their art, they take their work and dismantle it. These monks dumped their artwork when it was completed into water. We watched as the art floated away.

As I watched the monks faithfully complete the process, I wondered about my own life. How tightly do I hold onto my possessions, my creations, or my time?

My friends who commute into the city for their jobs often reveal their systems of overcoming traffic stress. Some listen to talk radio; others have books on tape. Cell phones help some through the drudgery. My friends who have small children often laugh as they clean up their houses each night when the kids go to bed. Those toddlers will pull out all of their toys the moment they wake up the next morning.

How do we fight the frustration of wasting time? Traffic and clutter often wears down our peace of mind. How can we overcome that sense of anxiety, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment we have, even if it is an unpleasant one?

In my own life, I constantly struggle with patience. Standing in line at a grocery store or waiting for a slow driver to turn causes me to grow unbelievably anxious. My time in Los Angeles stole my patience. Standing for an hour and a half in line at the bank, sitting in traffic for 45 minutes to travel two blocks down the street, or calling animal control and waiting four days before they picked the stray dog that took up residence on my front porch all compounded all left me with no patience. Why must I always hurry?

Even though I cannot hold time in my hands, it stands as one of my most valuable commodities. Investing it only seems wise if something is gained from that decision.
However, peace of mind might be what I need most.
Throughout the Bible, words of peace, rest, and stillness continually appear in the text. As people of faith, how can we introduce that sort of rest back into our lives? Jesus “went away” for 40 days before he began his ministry. The Gospels tell that he often “went away to a quiet place” just before a major event or turning point in his life. That sense of peace and quiet rarely is found in our modern lives.

On our trip to the temple, we heard people ask the Buddhist monks if they could take some of the sand as a souvenir. The monks gentle refused because they were demonstrating to the rest of us the impermanence of the material world. It would drift away with the water.

Like the sand, my time will drift away as well. I cannot hold it captive. May I use it in such a way that brings peace to those around me, including myself. The solace of time spent in peace can change us by slow us down. May we hold unto it loosely, knowing that beauty comes in experiencing the stillness of it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The $50 T-shirt ending poverty. . . .

On Sunday, I made a special trip to the GAP to pick up a (RED) shirt. Seems that Bono and Oprah have teamed up on behalf of poverty and AIDS in Africa. Wow--it seems that they have nailed my demongraphic--all the things I love. . . the GAP, Oprah, Bono, and Africa outreach. This is awesome! I can shop, listen to Oprah and Bono, and it goes to Africa. Perfect.

It was perfect until I picked up the t-shirt that read "inspi(red)" across the front. It was $50. That makes the mark-up on the shirt much greater than the $10 that is donated from my purchase. A normal t-shirt at the GAP doesn't cost $40. They are making a profit.

It just didn't sit well. Part of me started to feel guilty for the mass amount of t-shirts in my closet. In fact, I had spent the day before unloading the winter clothes and packing up m summer gear.

So, I will not purchase a red "inspi(red)" shirt from the GAP. Sorry Oprah. My apologies Bono. I will look for another way to give.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I Did it. . .

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This Is Asbury Weather

"This is Asbury weather," remarked Cathy Price, a friend who qualifies for top rankings in the "Friend for Life" category.

Cathy joined Ashley Atkins, another top contender in the friend category, for dinner on my birthday. We realized as we stepped out of the restaurant that a faint chill haunted the air outside. A few leaves tease us with their color. Most importantly, the heat is gone, and we know that autumn has come.

These women are my college friends. On days like this, Asbury College was at its best. The huge oak trees marveled us with their bright red hues. We would sit under them and let the falling leaves bury us alive.

On a perfect fall day, temptation called. Would we remain faithful to our collegiate classroom commitments? Most likely, I would find myself sitting on Reasoner Green, circled with a group of friends I loved deeply, laughing and laughing. Our professors usually walked passed us when he or she finished the class that we had just skipped. Usually, they would find their way over to sit down for a second and enjoy the day that ranked as our new top priority over their class. On a perfect day, no one ever objected.

I desperately miss those days.

Now those friends who sat with me under the oak trees dot a global map with their new homes. They own a piece of my heart. I feel the missing parts when the weather cools, and the days are perfect.

During my four years at Asbury College, I am not quite sure if I ever understood the sheer importance of those days. My goals and ideals were shaped by friends and mentors who believe that we could live for the good of the world. Also, they believed that my life mattered, and they brought to life dreams that I had never imagined before.

The late nights in my dorm room traced visions of what kind of woman I hoped to become. My girlfriends promised each other that we would be strong, hopeful, generous, intelligent, and committed to God and the people He brought us to love. Never in my entire life have I been surrounded by such phenomenal women. On Sunday nights, a handful of us would gather together, study, pray, and talk about ideas that mattered to us. I still use those notes, even today.

Conversations in the dining hall lasted for hours. We had nothing better to do than sit and talk. Those talks with so many people showed me that simply listening to whoever sat before me changed all of us.

When the fall of the year comes back around, it is Asbury weather. Cathy was right. This kind of weather reminds me to pray for those dear friends who serve God in so many ways. Pray for the young mother in Maryland who is raising Rex and little Caroline to know God and to love others. Pray for the teacher just up the road who loves children in a way that people can never understand. Pray for the dear man in Sri Lanka who works daily, even during war times, to rebuild a culture and people devastated by the tsuanami. Pray for the missionaries in Africa, India, and South America who strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poorest of the poor.

May these Asbury kind of days spur me to be the kind of person we dreamed of becoming. May our conversations today around dinner tables shape the future of those sitting beside us.