Coinciding with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, I set-up an office Olympics where I work. We had three teams: Fiji, Jamaica, and Barbados. I chose tropical locales because, frankly, it has been a long cold winter here and we all needed a hint of the islands. Over the course of three weeks we had a variety of different events such as Recycling Basketball, Paper Airplane Javelin, Lemon Fencing, Synchronized Office Chair Swivel, Finger Skating, and Rubber Band Archery. Each activity only took about 15 minutes out of our day and it was well worth it. The resulting laughter and just the simple act of getting out of our individual offices and workstations and coming together for a few minutes every day around something other than work was refreshing. The closing ceremonies were this past Friday and included a photo slide show (set to the Olympic theme song, naturally) of the participants and spectators at each of the events.
What I found to be the most rewarding part of the whole experience was seeing how everyone in the office rallied around one of our co-workers in particular. She is a quiet lady who works hard and keeps busy. She hails from outside the United States, and has a lovely accent and a gentle spirit. During the office Olympics, her team needed someone to sign-up to compete in Rubber Band Archery and she agreed even though she admitted that she didn't know how to shoot a rubber band. She approached me in the hallway one day and I thanked her for volunteering and she said, she was nervous about it because she didn't know what rubber band archery was. I told her that it isn't a thing... that I just made it up as a fun activity...that nobody knows what it is. She was so relieved to hear that! Have you ever been sure that everyone else knows about something and you are the odd, clueless man out? I explained that I would be setting up some targets and that rubber bands would be given out and that the object was to shoot the rubber band with your fingers at the targets and try to hit them. Nothing to worry about!
The day of the event arrived and I set up a bunch of paper and plastic cups on the ledge of an empty cubicle and let the competitors from teams Jamaica, Fiji and Barbados have a few minutes to practice. She stepped up to the line and acted like she had been shooting rubber bands her whole life. It was like the heavens opened and shined down on her and her alone for those few moments. She knocked those cups off the ledge one right after the other like a sharp shooter, stretching each rubber band back nearly to its breaking point before letting them fly. The staff who were gathered around cheered and watched in awe, even those who weren't on her team. Turns out that someone on her team had sent her a link to a YouTube video of how to shoot rubber bands (Is there nothing you can't find on the internet these days?) and she had been practicing at home since she had signed-up! She ended up winning the gold medal without breaking a sweat and a conversation broke out around the office at how her approach to rubber band archery closely resembled her approach to everything that she does. Her colleagues raved about how if there was skill she didn't have or a program she didn't know how to use, she would pay close attention as it was taught and she would work at it diligently until she became as good or better at it than the person who taught her. Everyone in the office started seeing this quiet, sweet lady in a different light and by the time the closing ceremonies came around last week, when a photo of the rubber band archery champ came up on the screen, the whole office clapped and cheered.
It took stepping outside of the normal routine to be able to see her uniqueness for what it was. Now when we step back into the norm, we will have a new found respect and a clearer picture of who she is and what she is capable of.
How can you create opportunities in your family, your job, your church, your group of friends to shake off the old routine enough to give people a chance to let their uniqueness show and give yourself a chance to notice it? Give it a try! You'll be glad you did.
This is Luke McMaster. He is a multiplatinum song-writer who recently launched a solo career with a billboard hit song - "Good Morning Beautiful." About a month ago, just before Christmas, a friend of mine from childhood was facing a heart surgery for her 3 year old daughter, Elouise. Prior to her surgery, Elouise's grandma introduced her to "Good Morning Beautiful" and it became her favorite song. They tweeted Luke McMaster (a stranger to them) a picture of Elouise listening to the song before going into surgery. He promised to record a special version just for her.
The thing is, he actually did it.
He chose to be delightful. He didn't have to. Elouise came through her surgery beautifully and would have lived a happy life without a personalized version of a billboard hit song. But he did it anyway. This isn't the first story or video to inspire this kind of attitude that I've come across lately: Jon Acuff wrote this blog post called Choose To Be Delightful about his experience at Trader Joe's, and if you haven't been watching the Kid President videos... well then you are missing out big time!
I guess the theme is, Why NOT be delightful?! It only takes a few extra moments of your time and makes a HUGE difference in the world around you.
P.S. You can get Luke McMaster's debut album, "All Roads," on iTunes or Amazon. (not a paid endorsement, I just think it is great to support artists who take the time to be delightful)
I laugh easily. Sometimes, I laugh a tad bit too loudly. I have learned not to be self conscious about my laughter because laughter is one of God's precious gifts.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post about some brain research that I have been doing, and I mentioned how when the brain senses a threat to our physical or social well-being the amygdala releases electro-chemicals that produce an instantaneous sense of dread and a readiness to act and defend/protect ourselves. This is a good thing... except when it isn't. We've all been there. Something bad ALMOST happens, then it doesn't yet we can't shake that heavy feeling of foreboding for a long time afterward even though the threat is gone. We want to! Logically we know there is nothing wrong, but it takes awhile for those electro-chemicals to dissipate. For me this happens whenever there is a close call on the road. When an accident ALMOST happens, but doesn't. It seems to take ages before I can feel light-hearted and relaxed again.
Guess what brain research has shown us? Laughter is the thing that can restore balance in the brain faster than anything else! Its almost like your brain hears you laughing and goes, "Hmmm, I guess this isn't the end of the world. If she can laugh about it, or during it, there must be hope! Guess I'll settle down."
The Bible alluded to this long before any MRI or CT Scan or EKG of brain activity appeared on the scene. Check it out:
Proverbs 17:22 ESV "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
In Pastor Rick Warren's article, "Learn to Laugh" in the Christian Post he says this: "Humor is an amazing thing. It’s a tension dissolver. It’s an antidote to anxiety. It’s just like a tranquilizer, but without any troublesome side effects. And it’s free! You don’t even need a prescription. Laughter is life’s shock absorber. If you want to have less stress in your life, learn to laugh at your circumstances. Somehow, you must find the fun in the frustrating." So true! The other day a friend texted me a picture of a bottle of RID and the bad news that lice had made an appearance in her family. Ugh. By God's grace, after commiserating with her misfortune, I immediately texted back something like this: "You can do this! Secret prize is in store for whoever in your family comes up with the funniest lice or nit joke. Go!" Our families, separated by more than half the country, spent the next several minutes texting made up jokes back and forth and giggling. My favorite was, "Why did the lice cross the road? To get to the hairier side." Hardee-har-har.
What a gift we have in laughter, let's not neglect to open up and use that gift often and well, avoiding finding humor in the crude or crass, yet fully appreciating the whimsical, silly, ironic, delightful things that God brings to mind and helping others to do the same.
Need a little help getting the giggles started, try these:
Seriously, my friends and family have kicked it into high gear lately with their status updates and tweets. I am laughing daily at all the funny stories and clever quips. As always, I must share! Names and incriminating data have been scrubbed from these posts to protect those who may not have been TRYING to be funny. *wink
1. 5 Year Old: "This book is full of nothing but good news." (She was holding up a New Testament)
Her 6 Year Old Sister: "Umm... Jesus getting killed cause I was naughty is NOT good news."
2. "I love cats! I just can't eat a whole one by myself."
3. "Going running after work, if anyone would like to join me. Warning: I have not run for years, I will be going slow and whining the whole time."
4. Five Year Old Boy: "Girls are all scared of scary stuff. All they like is princesses and beautiful flowers. That's no way to be."
5. "Confession: When your kids show up trick-or-treating in broad daylight, hours before dusk, I secretly judge you as helicopter parents.
6. I once told a teacher I wouldn't participate in an embarrassing Folkloric dance in Spanish class because I was Baptist.
7. Watching my daughter try and open a child-proofed bottle. "I am a grown-up" she shouts at it. Then looks up at me guiltily. "I lied to it. I just wanted it to open."
8. "Crawlspace" is such a poorly named part of my house. It's the last space I want to crawl. It should be called "Spidertown Jamboree."
9. ENOUGH WITH THE HOME REPAIRS. All I can guess is that our house was built in 1973, and almost 40 years later, it is tired. Come to think of it, I know exactly how the house feels. I can relate to it on many, many levels. (this wasn't from FB or Twitter, but rather from boomama.net, but I couldn't help but include it.)
10. Dad: "Not sure what I'll be for Halloween this year. I've never been anything scary." Son: "You were Justin Bieber two years ago.....THAT was pretty scary."
I just finished the first week of a training program that is supposed to get me off the couch and running a 5K (3.1 miles) in nine short weeks. The first week involves a 25 minute workout that alternates 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking, three times per week. As the program progresses, walking time will decrease and jogging time will increase. Yikes!
In the spirit of not taking myself or this very minor accomplishment too seriously, here are the top five things I learned prior to 7am today during my 25 minutes of jog/walking:
1. Ants, apparently, get up earlier than I do and are tougher than I am. As I was stretching at the track before my workout, I noticed little bits of "stuff" moving slowly on the ground beneath my feet. I realized they were hundreds of tiny ants carrying food-stuffs many times their body weight to an unknown location. They reminded me that I have a hard enough time carrying my own body weight. Show offs.
2. An idea of blogging about a Taylor Swift song and relating it to a deep spiritual truth, is probably the runner's high talking. Mid-way through my jog/walk, I actually had this "brilliant" idea to somehow relate Taylor's single "Our Song" to my relationship with God. Those endorphins can create CRAZY TALK in your brain, I tell ya. Beware!
3. The only place it is acceptable for me to wear spandex shorts is at the track at 6:00am when no one else is around. I think I burned more calories constantly adjusting those crazy shorts to keep them from sliding down or riding up than I did while actually jogging/walking. Thank God for long, baggy t-shirts.
4. Getting spiritual while exercising is for the advanced, not the amateur. Toward the end of my workout, as I finally realized this was going to end (eventually) and wasn't, in fact, going to kill me, I had the bright idea to pray for my friends and family during each of the 90 seconds of walking (praying for myself was all I could manage during the 60 seconds of jogging... more specifically, praying that I'd suck it up and not be a wuss and quit). Sounds reasonable enough, right, except that when I would pray while I walked I would lose track of time and the 90 seconds of blessed walking would go by too fast or I'd feel gipped somehow or I'd go longer than 90 seconds and mess up the rules of the workout plan (I'm nothing if not a rule follower). Bah! #AmateurProblems
5. Having something poking you in your shoe while jogging can make you look insane. If you were hiding behind a tree or sitting in a car somewhere, or were flying overhead in an airplane, or had concealed yourself in some other way this morning, and you had the misfortune of watching my workout while I thought I was all alone - I apologize and I feel I must explain. I HAD SOMETHING IN MY SHOE! All those crazy moves, random kicks and shakes, and the stomping, and toe tapping all while trying to continue moving in a forward direction without falling down, must have made me look a bit off my rocker. Perhaps I am...
Starting on Friday, I will be jogging for 90 seconds and walking for 2 minutes for a total of 25 minutes a day, three times per week. Heaven help me! I'll keep ya posted on the hilarity that ensues and the poignant lessons learned. I know you're on the edge of your seat.
PS - I love the little girl in the picture above. I don't know her, but I love her. I found her on Pinterest. I am not making fun of her, I am making fun of myself... she is, quite obviously, trying to dodge the bubbles that are about to land on her head and that is serious business indeed.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!