Saturday, May 26, 2012

"The Power of a Positive Word"

I haven't written in awhile. Have I run out of ideas? Absolutely not. That's part of the problem; I've got so many running thru my head I have a hard time settling out on one.

But my biggest problem is that I've been going to bed too early lately. I haven't been staying up long enough to get  into the right frame of mind to write anything.  For me, I have to kind of get in a certain zone that doesn't usually happen in the daylight.

So today I worked in the forenoon, rushed home just in time to get ready for an appointment in Lynchburg at  2:00, headed on to Harrisonburg for Mary's niece Connie's high school graduation and then back home. So now it's 11:16 Friday evening, it's a long time 'till morning, and I feel the writing mood sneaking up on me.

I've been thinking about the power of positive words. Most of us can probably think back  and point to some positive people who said some positive things and made a difference in our lives.

I remember my dad telling me about Sam Yoder from Stuarts Draft. (Sam would be a grandfather to Eric Hershberger who is marrying Joanne Yoder here real soon)  He was the youth boys Sunday School teacher in the Amish church in Draft when my dad was growing up. Papa was very short for his age and wondered for years if he would ever grow up at all. I don't know if Sam ever had any extended talks with him, but what Papa used to tell me about was how Sam would always shake the young guys hands after church and give them a kind word. "Eli, how are you," he would say, and you could tell he really meant it. And it made you want to grow up to amount to something because you knew somebody believed in you.

I told you before how when Mary started school she cried every morning 'till Christmas. Part of that was due to the fact that her first grade teacher was mean and uncaring. When she got to the second grade she had a wonderful teacher and Mary came out of her shell, blossomed, and was voted class president before the year was over!

Are all kind words kind? What about the "kind" words of a flatterer? I'll just be honest; I don't care for flatterers. Most of the time they are just trying to butter you up to get something out of you for their benefit. When I'm listening to a flatterer I feel like saying, "Hurry up and get done with your baloney and tell me what you want!"

But honest kind words; a heart-felt compliment here and there give a person the gump to go on living.

When I was a teenager (or maybe before) I developed a love for singing. And I wanted so badly to become a song leader. I went to Bible school for six weeks and one of the classes I took was "Song Leading And Ushering". I knew full well that you would have to get up front at Bible school and use your new found skill, and shy as I was, even that didn't deter me.

And I can't impress on you enough how shy I really was. Several years ago at Penn Valley we met up with a lady who had been a student at Calvary the same time I was there. She couldn't believe I was the same person that she remembered from those days long ago. She said, "Well, if you even just looked at Merle sideways he would fall through the floor!"

So I'm saying it took a lot of guts to sign up for this class. Anyway, the class went well and I survived and came home just itching to lead some singing.

My chance finally came and I don't remember if it was a song service or if I just had to lead several songs in the regular service. Afterwards Caleb Glick came up to me and said if he shut his eyes he was back in the little country church along the creek (was it Shady Grove or something?) near Faith Mission Home with my uncle Sanford leading the singing.

Now I always thought Uncle Sanford bellered a little bit when he led singing but I took it as a high compliment and one that warmed my heart and one I have never forgotten.

Another one was maybe ten years ago when I was still logging. A dad and his young son were looking out the window one Sunday morning and a log truck went by. The son said, "I don't guess that's Merle". The dad says, well, not unless he's going to Bethel for an object lesson. And the son again,"Well, I wouldn't put it past him!"  That one warmed my heart for a long time.

Just a month or so ago, son Myron and wife Heidi were visiting in the home of a minister in another church setting. They do things somewhat untraditionally there and he was telling Myron they get called "redneck Mennonites". Myron told me he spoke up and said, "Well, where we're from, my dad and I are probably about the most "redneck" of anybody there". Now that's a compliment that I will hold dear to my heart 'till the day I die.

Several weeks ago I got an email from a lady saying she liked my writing style. (well, she actually said "loved", but be that as it may)  Now this lady seems to be pretty smart and knowledgeable and keeps herself that way by eating healthy foods and taking Juice Plus. But to top it all off, she works at CLP. I mean she should know something about writing, right? Of course, come to think of it, I'm not sure what she does there; maybe she mows the grass or something.

I emailed her back and thanked her for the compliment and said I would use her endorsement on the front cover of whenever my new book comes out. (my tongue is really in cheek here) I said it would read something like, " famous CLP guru endorses previously unknown redneck writer". I told her I hope it won't cause her to lose her job.

So let's look around us. Have you been blessed (as I have) by the kind words of others? Now it's your (and my) turn to pass them on. There are young ones coming on that are struggling to grow up. There are plenty of  "grown-ups" that are struggling to "stay up".

You may never know what a well timed compliment or a kind word will do. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

"The Gift of Procrastination"

Here I sit tonight, my thoughts rambling out through my fingers, when I really should be doing something else. Any number of things possibly, and a few things particularly.  And I should warn you, sometimes some of the things I write may be with tongue somewhat in cheek. When is it in cheek and how much? That's for me to know and you to wonder.

We have Summer Bible School starting about a month from now. We're one of the very few left that still do a two week Bible School and I'm the superintendent. And I have been for more years than I have fingers on both hands and maybe about as many as my fingers and toes. And I have yet to decide what I am going to use for the assembly at the end of each evening.

I've told Otto Koning's  "Pineapple Stories" and Silvia Tarniceriu's "God Knows My Size" both several times. After 4 or 5 years you have a new group of children who haven't heard these stories and you can use them again. I always leave Otto or Silvia in the worst possible situation at the close of each evening so the children will want to come back the next evening to hear what happened to them. We've been privileged to have both Otto and Silvia come and speak to us for the "program" evening.

I've also used nature stories several times and one year various short stories that taught a good lesson. Like Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" and "They Grind Exceedingly Small". (can't remember who wrote that one)

But so far this year?? No inspiration just yet. This is a situation where the "planer", the "scheduled" person that likes to "have it all together" starts getting uptight. The truly gifted procrastinator doesn't lose his joy for at least several more weeks.

Now let me be perfectly clear. There are some things you shouldn't procrastinate on at all. Things like being at peace with your Maker. Like getting your crops planted and harvested on time. And you should never procrastinate when someone else will have to suffer for it. That's selfishness, plain and simple. That's how you can tell the difference between the low-down scum-bug procrastinators and the "gifted"ones.

One time last summer we were getting company on Sunday and we wanted the yard all mowed nicely and the place generally presentable. Now I'm the type of person that functions the best on a predictable schedule and sometimes I "fall apart" on the weekends. This particular Saturday I fell apart. I couldn't get going and laid around the house all morning. (I was tired too; sometimes I work pretty hard for an old man my age)  I rallied enough to eat lunch and then rested some more. I should mention too that the forecast was calling for rain that day.

Finally about the middle of the afternoon I made it out of the house and onto the lawn mower. An hour or so later I had just finished the last couple passes and was headed back to park the mower when the rain began to fall in earnest.

Mary asked me with begrudging admiration, (well, that's probably a little too positive) "How do you manage to DO things like this??" I mean, my timing was perfect; got the job done and just slipped in under the wire.

I tried to be modest. It's a gift, and you can't be proud of a gift.

There have been many times that I have begun to worry about something and all day I'm thinking tonight I must get on this thing whatever it is. Then I get home and get to thinking about it more and it comes to me that actually I could put it off for one more day. And you wouldn't believe the peace and joy that comes over you. I might pop up a big bowl of popcorn and relax on the couch with a logging magazine. All life's small pleasures seem to take on special meaning. Can't relate to that? Well, then obviously you're not gifted in this area.

If there's anything that makes me procrastinate, it's when the "something" that needs doing includes a phone call. I HATE having to make phone calls. I border on having a phobia about it. Now if you call ME, I'm fine. But if I'm calling you? Don't hold your breath waiting; it may not be today.(I think e-mail and text messaging are the best thing since sliced bread) And I'm fine to talk to people in person as well. Mary used to laugh at me; I would drive several miles to talk with someone so as to not have to call them up on the phone.

There's something else I'm wondering about procrastinators. I have a theory that if you studied it out you would find that procrastinators tend to be "evening" people instead of "morning" people.  I never have been able to figure out why some people waste all those wonderful, quiet hours of the night doing nothing but sleeping. Of course they wonder why I'm still sleeping then when those "wonderful" early morning hours roll around. I milked cows for years and years at the "wonderful" hours of 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning; I've had about as much wonder as I can stand. I'm a little like Otto Koning's wife Carol. He tried to get her to get up early enough to see the sunrise in New Guinea and she said  if God would have wanted her to see the sunrise, He would have scheduled it for later in the day. (By the way, Carol Koning is suffering from cancer and not expected to live much longer)

For years I felt so inferior to the "morning" people. Felt like a first class second-class citizen. I mean these people get up before daybreak and read their Bible and pray! (I read mine at night) They never procrastinate about anything. (I have the gift of it)

All the evangelists always try to encourage us in our devotional life. Take time each day, they say, but preferably in the morning when your mind is the "clearest". Well, in the morning my mind the clearest isn't. (think mud) I can't think straight 'till about 10 o'clock. When we were young married Mary used to think I was mad at her in the mornings when all I would do is grunt at her. I'm telling you, it was the best I could do. A one syllable grunt meant "yes", a two syllable (huh-umn) meant "no", and a three meant "I don't know". (MMM-mm-Mmph)

Anyway, late one night several years ago I was reading my Bible. I happened to glance over at the bedside clock. It read a few minutes after midnight. All of a sudden all those years of inferiority fell clean away.  Second class citizen no more! I'm getting about as early a start on the day as there is to be had! How freeing! TAKE THAT, all yall smugly superior "morning" people!!

 So if you're an evening-night procrastinating combination like me, take heart. There's a place in the Kingdom for you, too. And there is nobody (I repeat, nobody) that will appreciate the New Heaven and the New Earth as much as we will. That feeling of  not having to be pressured to do something TODAY. Because there will always be tomorrow and the day after that and the one after that and the one after that.

 It will be a joy that is right down our alley!