Well, I didn’t even have to think about this one before answering. I would give anything to talk with my mom and dad. They are both with the Lord now, so that isn’t going to be an option for me anytime soon, but it’s still my wish. I had absolutely wonderful parents. Their love for each other and their love for me gave me much joy throughout my growing up years and well into my adulthood. They sustained me in every hurtful or negative experience and encouraged me to believe I could be everything I wanted to be. They taught me the truths of God’s Word and also taught me to seek out and find truth for myself so that I never had to depend on what someone else believed in order to have faith in my own heart.
I am now into my senior years of life, but I still miss them as much as if I were 10 years old. Their wisdom and love were so special that I have never found its equal, except in the husband the Lord gave me. I have been extremely blessed to have had that kind of family experience. And I can honestly say that I would give almost everything I own to be able to spend just 30 minutes talking with my mom and dad today.
TO DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AND MAKE LOADS OF MONEY AT IT!
No, seriously, since I shared in an earlier Daily Prompt about having several careers — which have given me much pleasure for the majority of my adult life — I don’t see any need to make any new plans now. But I couldn’t resist posting on today’s prompt — plus it gave me an opportunity to focus on one of my favorite bird paintings: This little birdie who is doing absolutely nothing but singing his heart out.
I do, indeed, have a quote that I live my life by. But the quote is my own.
“perfection is not a requirement in my life, but excellence is mandatory.”
I’m certainly not perfect, and I don’t expect perfection from other people. But I do believe that excellence is something we should strive for in everything we do. We need to give every job and every interaction with others the very best effort we have. We need to take the time and give the attention required to make sure what we have made, done, or said is the best we can do.
Mediocrity is the current quality level of most of our society today. I see it in almost every business and in almost every interaction with other people. For many years of my life, I visited restaurants where every employee made a determined effort to make sure the food was cooked properly, the dishes and utensils were clean, and the coffee was kept refilled. I shopped in stores where the clerks actually enjoyed helping their customers and prided themselves in knowing what would please them and in being patient when decisions were not easy to make.
I had family members in hospital situations where the doctors and nurses actually cared about the patients and would never have even considered leaving a patient in wet bedclothes or not double-checking medications, or not patiently answering all their questions. I spent time on phone calls to large companies that I paid to provide a service, and I got a real person on the other end without waiting for quarter to half an hour before anyone would even talk to me. I rarely find those experiences these days. And, in fact, I find a great deal of negative attitudes, sloppy work, and dirty environments where there should be the highest degree of cleanliness. It troubles me.
But I don’t think the people who settle for this mediocrity are deliberately being lazy about life — at least most of the time. Rather, I think there’s just something in our soul that feels discouraged and maybe even tired of “trying harder to do better” — because most of the world around us it not trying either. This dis-spiritedness is contagious, and we can fall into its trap very easily if we don’t keep up our guard.
So I do try, in my own little part of the world, to strive for excellence in the things that I’m responsible for. Do I always succeed in my efforts. Honestly, no, I do not. But I do try, and I intend to keep on trying just as hard as I can. Hence, in my journal, on my refrigerator magnates, and in my artwork, I keep painting or printing the quote I live by: “Perfection is not a requirement in my life, but excellence is mandatory.”
There is a theory espoused by some that there is actually a parallel/alternate experience of life that is running concurrently with the one we are aware of, and that if we could become aware of it as well, it would give us the experiences to which our alternate choices had opened the door. Of course, I realize, according to the Word of God, that concept is not a reality, but I am still aware that had I made just one or two choices differently – even the choice of what street to walk down, or what restaurant to visit, or what time of day I went to the library – a hundred things in my life might be completely different.
The reality of this truth came home to me quite unexpectedly, and quite dramatically, one day a few years ago when I encountered a stranger in a fast food restaurant. I’ve been fleetingly aware of other such experiences during my life, but this particular time, I was so touched by it, and my life so affected by it, that I immediately wrote it down and saved it, so that it would remain a part of who I am from that moment on. I shared it on this site at the time it happened, but it seems appropriate to give it a fresh airing in light of today’s prompt.
WHERE DID I MISS YOU?
I didn’t notice him as I entered the fast food restaurant. His table was to my right as I entered the door. And he wasn’t in my line of vision as I stood in line at the counter, so I don’t know if he had noticed me as I came in or not. But as I carried my sack over to the end of the shelf where the napkins were located, I glanced up and met his eyes. It was for only the briefest second, because it was one of those situations where you know you’ve made contact, but you don’t know why and aren’t sure how to react. So you swiftly shift your eyes to the side, pretending to look at other things — as if you had just been letting your eyes sweep the area in general.
Why we do that I don’t know. Maybe it’s a reaction only in those of us who have a measurable lack of self-confidence. Whatever the reason, though, I knew I had reacted that way when I really hadn’t wanted to do so.
But I felt the pull of his personality so strongly that I almost felt as if I’d insulted him by not smiling at him when our eyes had touched so fleetingly. Thinking it may have been just my imagination, I glanced his way again and found him looking at me again as well. But, again, I broke contact within mere seconds. And, once again, I was sorry. I now felt the pull of him so strongly that I knew I had to do something to connect with him, if only for one smile.
It was easier than I had expected, because at the table closest to his sat an old friend of mine. I usually tried to speak briefly to her whenever I saw her anywhere, so I decided I’d walk over to her table, necessarily passing by his.
As I stepped past his table, my eyes still wouldn’t connect with his. So I just looked right at my friend and spoke. “How are you doing, Betty?”
“I’m doing fine. How are you?”
“I’m fine too. I’ll be even better after I eat this,” I added whimsically, holding up my sack. I glanced his way, and he was looking at me. He smiled. I smiled. He could hear every word I said clearly. I looked back to Betty, still holding my sack out in front of me. Then facing Betty, but letting my eyes drift in his direction, I focused on his left hand. He did have on a gold ring, but whether it was actually a wedding band or not I couldn’t tell. It was best if I didn’t know for sure anyway, but … disappointment pierced through me. It was a brief, stabbing feeling, and then sort of a dull resignation took its place.
But somehow, I just couldn’t quite let go of him yet. I held up my sack again – in Betty’s direction: “I don’t really need this … but … then again, I guess I do need it” was my next inane addition to the conversation. I glanced at him again, as if to include him in this “high-level” discussion. He understood. So I took advantage of that moment to look at him more closely.
There was nothing extraordinarily attractive about him. I mean he wasn’t the kind of man you’d naturally notice because he was gorgeous or was dressed in the height of fashion. His African-American complexion wasn’t ebony, but it was darker than brown. He had on a kind of knit cap that covered most of his short-cropped hair. His beard was mostly gray and extremely neat, but even though the beard was gray, the face was young. He was obviously overweight. Not fat, but certainly not sporting the kind of physique that normally caught a woman’s attention.
But it was his eyes and his smile. Or maybe it was his smile and his eyes. It doesn’t matter which, because his smile was so warm and genuine that it filled his eyes as well as his mouth. And it was that smile that made him really attractive — not the physical smile — the part of it that came from his soul. It was his soul that was in his eyes, and there was an invitation there: “I could sit and talk to you and understand you,” it said. “And youwould understand me. We’d be friends.”
By that time (barely seconds) Betty was responding to my convoluted statement about the need for food, and she answered, “Yeah … you have to eat to live.” Brilliant answer!
“Right,” I said, looking back at my new friend. His smile was even sweeter — and even more inviting. He knew I wouldn’t — and couldn’t — sit down and talk to him. Why not? Because we had no connector. We had no tiny moment from our past that could have provided even the thinnest thread of oneness. We had just this one minuscule moment — taken out of time — to recognize, to dream, to wish. But his smile let me know that he had enjoyed talking to me vicariously and hoped that I had felt the same.
I smiled at him as generously as I knew how, hoping my message was in my own eyes: “I wish things were different. I wish I could sit down at your table and get to know you. Yes, we’d be friends; I’m sure of it. … Have a good day. Have a good life. … Bye.”
I walked out the door — sadder than when I’d walked in — poorer because of knowing there was a rich friendship out there that I would never own. Where in my life did I choose a path that put me in the position of never meeting him until today? Where did I miss finding him at a time when I could have known him, owned him as a friend, and had my life woven in with his? I wish I knew. No … I wish I’d known then … and I would have chosen differently.
This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, which begins the Holy Week before Easter. Throughout Holy Week, Christians all over the world focus on the suffering and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, contemplating the awful price He paid for man’s rebellion and sin. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29).
Then on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact the Jesus rose from the dead, with forgiveness for all sin, and made His own righteousness available for anyone who will receive Him.
The Word of God also says, in the book of Hebrews, “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. …We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Now where there is forgiveness … there is no longer any offering for sin. Since, therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near [ to God ] with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”
As believers consider what Jesus has done for all mankind this season, it would be good to remember this truth: Even under the Old Covenant, when a man brought a lamb to be sacrificed for his sin, neither the priest nor God Himself looked at the man to see if he measured up to a certain standard so that his sacrifice could be accepted and his sin forgiven. The only thing they looked at was the lamb itself. If the lamb was unblemished — spotless — perfect — the sacrifice was accepted, and the man walked away free of all guilt and condemnation.
So it is in the better covenant that Jesus instituted by becoming our Lamb – through His death and resurrection. In the New Covenant — as in the Old — God is not looking at you and me to see if we measure up well enough to be forgiven or to be admitted into His presence.He’s looking at your Lamb. He’s looking at my Lamb. So we can rejoice, beloved! We can go free from all sin and guilt and shame. We are forgiven and accepted totally and freely — for OUR LAMB IS PERFECT!
When I first read today’s prompt, two specific things came to my mind. One is a direct answer to the question, and the other is sort of a rabbit trail kind of answer.
First of all, the very best compliment I have ever received was when a woman who had recently given her life to Christ told me, “I see Jesus in your face.” There’s just no comparing any other compliment to me with those words. I want more than anything else to help people in this world see Jesus and know how much He loves them.
But the second thing that came to mind was a compliment that I received behind my back concerning a funeral sermon I had preached. My sister related the story to me. The funeral was for a favorite aunt of mine, so a lot of the people in attendance were family members. One cousin, who had lived his life totally contrary to the Word of God and who never felt inclined to attend church or be involved in Christian activities was sitting beside my sister. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not judging this cousin. I love him dearly, and he understands the differences in our attitudes toward the Lord. But I emphasize his lifestyle and his lack of religious involvement to give understanding to why his words had such an impact. His main experiences with sermons had been at places like funerals and weddings, etc.
Anyway, at the end of the service, as everyone was getting up to be ushered past the coffin and go into the foyer to await the trip to the cemetery, this cousin turned to my sister, took hold of her shoulders, looked her in the eye and said with great emotion: “Your sister just preached the best DAMN funeral sermon I’ve ever heard!”
Since that time, I’ve taken advantage of the compliment to tease a few of my minister friends by telling them that I’ve received a compliment on my funeral sermons that I’m sure they’ve never received for theirs. And, indeed, they all agree. 🙂
Well, the truth is that I don’t like long, involved shopping excursions. Back when I was young — my teens and twenties — my family members and I — sometimes including grandparents and cousins — loved to go to large shopping malls in other cities or even other states. We’d spend the whole day and truly enjoyed it. But I think it was as much the joy of being together as it was the shopping.
Nowadays, I don’t have much family around, and I don’t even have a desire to plan an involved shopping trip anywhere. I’d rather know pretty much what I want — and specifically which store has it — and just go right to the store, make the purchase, and go home.
There are two exceptions: book stores and candy stores. If I had an opportunity to spend hours in a huge book store — the kind with unlimited variety — or a candy store — also the kind with unlimited variety — then I would seriously consider planning and executing a more involved shopping spree — even out of state. I could easily spend hours — and hundreds of dollars — in either of those two kinds of establishments.