Besides my friendship with Josh who is doing a whole lot of landscaping in Lubbock (actually I should say that he is doing a lot of Lubbock lawn care for yards heading into the fall and winter months) I have become friends with a guy named Kurt, who does all kinds of handyman work for several corporate housing groups all around the South Plains. He told me that he doesn’t think he has much to offer to the group as far as teaching anything, but he is going to give it a go in a few weeks. He is going to talk about successfully dealing with difficult and impatient customers who are domineering and demanding. I told him that this was going to be a very valuable teaching since everyone in the group has to deal with customer service to a lot of people who complain about everything no matter if everything is being done correctly. Kurt told me that he recently dealt with a woman at one of his assigned sites who wanted him to fix her toilet that she said was always getting stuck. After taking a look at her toilet (which I am sure was a total joy), Kurt messed with the internal workings of this fine contraption and jiggled things around a bit. He put in a lot of toilet paper in the bowl (which made the woman steaming mad for wasting her valuable toilet tissue) and he flushed it. It worked perfectly. Again and again, Kurt tried to get the toilet “to get stuck” as was the complaint and it never would. It flushed normally, but the woman refused to let him go that easily. In fact, she berated him for just being lazy and trying to get out of this job so quickly. He told me that despite his internal anger at the woman for her actions, he calmly asked her to accompany him into the bathroom and to show him how he could fix something that was currently. He showed her what he had done on the inside (which was not much since none of it was broken) and asked her to think of when the toilet tends to get stuck. He also asked her if she happened to try to flush anything besides paper and waste into the toilet. She was livid but Kurt’s calmness and even care for her situation kept things from being explosive (a word that you might not want to think of in dealing with toilets). Just then, Kurt saw three cats moving around in the hall and he immediately thought of their litter boxes. He asked the woman if she changed all three of their litter boxes on the same day and she said yes. He asked if he could look at the litter boxes and when he did he saw that they were overflowing with kitty litter and other fun surprises. He immediately knew what was going on – the woman was dumping three full litter boxes into the toilet each week and it was clogging her system. He asked if he could check and see if this was right. Flustered, he said yes and just as Kurt thought, the toilet stopped up. The woman did not say thank-you but instead just complained that Kurt had wasted not only her toilet paper but now a lot of kitty litter. Kurt just smiled and said he was sorry about it all. He used his plunger to remove this current clog and made sure the toilet was working correctly. Then, he thanked her and left. But Kurt didn’t just stop at that – He immediately went to the grocery store and bought the woman a 24-pack of toilet paper and a large case of kitty litter. When he delivered it to her corporate housing space, the woman actually started crying and apologizing to him for being so cross. As it turned out, she had just lost her husband to cancer and had replaced her sorrow with anger. She thanked him for his kindness and patience. Kindness and patience kill off a lot of complaint. This was the case study that Kurt was going to use when he talks to us in a few weeks. I was amazed at how his attitude and generosity had calmed the storm and encouraged him that this would be a powerful lesson. He thanked me and we got a late breakfast after the group concluded. Once again, I am happy that I am making friends with people of this sort. Good guys…
I forgot to mention that I also made friends with a woman named Liz who is running a local Lubbock catering business that is connected to a larger corporation. She will be mentioned in the rest of my blogs because of her influence on me and Josh. Her name is Liz.
Day 121 – Friday Freedom
Drinking Cold Brew coffee from Starbucks is both an addiction and a hatred – I order this drink probably three times per week and expect it to amp my caffeine levels to dangerous levels (which it does). I also expect it to taste like a bad cigar in liquid form (which it does). I get this drink without water or ice so I maximize my Starbucks investment, but every time I swallow it back I nearly gag on the taste. I should just change my order to something more palatable, but when I get to the counter I feel that I have to take on my coffee nemesis – to face my fears – to battle my Goliath. I keep thinking that it will become an acquired taste that I actually acquire, but so far I have no acquisition. Maybe if I ate some tar on the off days I would be able to fall in comparative love with the Cold Brew. Anyway, I begin with this because this was one of those Starbucks days. I could have just drunk my free corporate housing coffee, but I had to brave this challenge one more time. Cold Brew – I will conquer you by falling in love with you…
So as most Fridays go, I had a good one. I started off meeting with my Lubbock Pre-K group and then I met with the lead from the Lubbock landscaping group and went through their analytics. I talked to them about how their holiday lighting business was going and they told me it was busier than last year – they blamed me for that success. I accepted that blame. After this I hung out with Melissa for lunch at Carprisi’s Italian eatery. As we chomped on Manicotti and Canneloni, we talked about whether we would have pets after we get married. Animal preferences are a big deal. Trust me, it’s deep stuff. After some emotional discussion we decided on starting with a turtle over a dog or cat so that we could ease into taking on more responsibility. Turtles are cool – we both like them. And Melissa said that if we wanted to have something we could pet, we could just glue some soft wig hair onto the turtle’s shell. I already feel sorry for this turtle – kind of like I feel sorry for dachshunds that are forced to wear sweaters. Still, I think we will have the softest and coolest turtle in town.
Meditation: Jesus offended the religious leaders with several different statements and told them that they were doing the religious things correctly but were forgetting to handle the bigger things that please God – like doing justice and bringing mercy to bear on others. I couldn’t really put myself in the place of these leaders, but I did get convicted by the fact that I don’t take opportunities to do justice and to mete out mercy. In many ways I think that I leave those actions to church leaders. I sort of expect them to be the ones who do the “professional” ministry, while I go about just working and making a living. I need to stop thinking like this. I need to realize that I am a disciple of Jesus who needs to actually put God’s desires into practice.
I have a long way to go…
Day 118 – Tuesday Trash
I woke up in my corporate housing bed much happier than yesterday – I guess my Central Nervous System just needed to reset my balance of good and bad. Anyway, I started my normal routine and headed downstairs to swim. Both Tom and Sarah were there this morning as I went for my daily swim – they were there to say “hey” and to invite me to go on a storage war in Midland that is happening on Saturday. I told them that I would if Melissa wanted to accompany us – they were cool with that. It would be a double date going hording for many pieces of obsolescent trash and broken knick-knacks – might be fun to expose Melissa to the weird lives of our neighbors. What was really interesting was that Sarah showed me a diamond band on her finger and told me that she and Tom were going to be married in a few months. She said both Melissa and I would be invited to that occasion as well. Tom thanked me for setting them up in the first place and while I doubted they had put as much work into their “getting to know one another” process, I had high hopes for their marital success. They were two lonely people in the middle of their lives and they had found someone who wanted someone else. So why not? Let them give it a shot.
Speaking of Midland, I had discussions with their marketing lead person and assured them that their “Midland Corporate Housing” keyword was on the upswing. It was taking longer than expected to get Google to crawl their website. This delay happens sometimes and can make customers uneasy because they want to see upward movements in their rankings – I don’t blame them. If I was on their leadership team and I was paying someone like me to do things to their site, I would expect rapid and reports about things. I told them that one of my analytics tools did have them ranking in the top 10 overall and that I would have an official report for them in a week. (I hate making clients wait – makes me feel like I am not doing my job correctly. But I am not the implementation specialist at Google and thus I can’t make things pop as fast as I would like.) Anyway, the rest of my workday was easy because I had good movements for all the rest of my clients.
Meditation: 1 Thessalonians – The verses that stuck out to me were the ones that talked about the end of the world and about how those who believe in Jesus would meet him in the air once he comes back to bring a new kingdom on the earth – a kingdom that would last forever. This was written to encourage the believers who were having to struggle against daily oppression but for me as a modern day reader, I was simply encouraged by the fact that the boredom of the current systems would someday end. I could not and cannot wait for Jesus to come back and change everything into The New…
That’s it for Tuesday –
Day 116 – Sunday schooling
After getting myself ready in my short-term furnished apartment, I actually went to church this morning. I didn’t really go to hear the sermon again, but I had heard that they have Sunday school classes in between the services and so that piqued my interest. I hadn’t been to a Sunday school class since I was a little kid and so I didn’t know what the adult version would be like. But, I wanted to see – I figured it wouldn’t hurt to dig into the Bible with other like-minded people. I chose a class called “When Woe means Whoa.” It was about all of the times in the Bible that God said woe to different nations and individuals and how these different groups or individuals responded to this warning. I really liked hearing this man (Mr. James Rhoads) expound on some of these times and I think the way he handled the Scripture taught me something about how to lead the Bible study I lead on Monday evenings. At the end of the class, he asked if anyone had prayer requests or announcements and I told everyone that we had a Bible Study at my Lubbock Corporate Housing spot and that they were all invited (I told them that there would be good food provided from my favorite Lubbock catering spot). I had some extra flyers folded up in my Bible and so I put them at the back of the class just in case anyone wanted to join us. The teacher of this class encouraged the class to show up and I felt happy that I wasn’t blown off. Anyway, I was happy I came to this class and I planned to come next week – that time with my beautiful Melissa in tow.
Speaking of Melissa, she was asleep for most of the day after working hard for fourteen hours. Her schedule makes me feel like a lazy person. She puts all of herself into caring for people in rough conditions. I so respect her for how she does what she does. I also especially respect the fact that she has bounced back so quickly from her wreck and got back in the swing of things. I know that I have been blessed with a winner who will be my second priority (behind God) for the rest of my days.
My meditation was about how Jesus healed a large crowd of people who followed Him for miles and then how He fed the 5,000 with just a minimal of supplies. What stuck out for me was how Jesus takes care of everyone. He didn’t ask for any money or any applause. He just does good to us even though we don’t deserve it. I can see this kind of generosity being played out in my life on an every day basis and I am thankful that He doesn’t leave me hungry and/or broken apart.
Anyway, this was a good day.
Day 115 – Saturday Alone
Meditation from the comforts of my Lubbock Corporate Housing space: I read Ezekiel 16 and was taken aback when I read about God’s fury at Israel. He describes Israel as this little baby that had not been cared for. He tells about how God took that young country and made it special – made it beautiful – made it pure. But then he described how Israel grew up to become a prostitute of a nation that always gave itself away to other nations – how it committed adultery by serving other gods – how it made love to dishonor. God even says how Israel had gotten worse than Sodom at its worst and that He was going to bring Israel down to where it deserved to be – exposed and defeated. But then He said how that one day He would be merciful and make Israel special again. This was the part that stuck out to me the most. Sure, I noted how my own nation is as adulterous as it comes and how I am a part of it. I also noted that we most likely deserve major judgment because we are like Sodom on our best days. But to read about how God loves so much – how He is love – and how He redeems even the worst of us made me feel closer to God who has been so very patient with my disobedience. I suddenly knew that Jesus was what made me special and lovely. I suddenly knew that God was overlooking my unrighteousness because of His nature and I knew I would be carried above it all and placed in an undeserved eternal home someday. Suddenly, homes for sale in Lubbock meant little to me because I could imagine the perfect home in Heaven. I actually felt overwhelmed with emotion after reading this. I had read it before but it had never struck me like this. I gave thanks for the Holy Spirit who opened my eyes to this piece of scripture.
This meditation led me to my church service in the afternoon – I went alone because Melissa was working the late shift. I felt alone when I was there among my fellow sinners but I still carried with me the feeling of glory from the meditation. I worshipped with all my might and surrendered everything I could think of during the music and my mind was on super focus mode while the preacher preached. He gave a sermon that reminded me of the Lubbock Pre-K school that was my client – It was about raising up children that knew the Lord and could stand on their own in their own spirituality instead of resting on their parents’ faith. It was solid and I was happy to have had such a wonderful spiritual day. I hadn’t expected it at all – I expected normal but God gave me so much more.
Have you ever had such a day like this? What do you think of being moved so strongly by the Holy Spirit? Feel free to comment.
Day 105 – Thursday Arises
After my bout with Food Poisoning, I felt fit as a fiddle in the Charlie Daniel’s Band – Okay, maybe not that fit. I’m not up for a challenge from the enemy of my soul – I’m more ready for a normal day of customer service followed by analytics reports. I took my time swimming at my Lubbock Corporate Housing pool – getting my body stretched out to set up new campaigns for my new accounts (Midland Corporate Housing, Amarillo Corporate Housing and Lubbock catering). Swimming is a mind and body exercise that every salesperson needs to engage in. There is nothing like chlorine in your retinas to grant you clear vision. Anyway, I rejoiced that I could eat a bagel with butter today without immediately without my stomach rolling itself out of my mouth.
Melissa and I had a lunch date at Torchy’s Tacos (might have been pushing myself a little too hard there). The food was grand and so were the conversations we had about our lives together now and in the future. We actually Skyped her parents after lunch so I could see them and officially meet them on the virtual path. They were very kind and they laughed at some things I said – that always makes me like people more. They also told me about how much they value their daughter and about how much they expected from me as her husband. I was earnest in my responses and I think they were satisfied that Melissa had not linked herself to some Lubbock psycho.
Melissa and I also went to our first premarital counseling session with a psychologist that specializes on helping pre-married people understand the challenges of marriage. Dr. Atkinson (actually a female) took us in her office and just had us tell our relational story. She asked some background questions and our answers took up the rest of our time for this meeting. It was nice to hear from Melissa about how she viewed our story – similar but different than mine. I think we both surprised one another with some things, but nothing was shocking or scary. The PhD. said that she was impressed with how much we knew about each other already and that she felt like we were going to be a fun couple to counsel. We did tell her that we had been using both The Love Dare and I guess I do: The Ultimate Marriage Survival Guide to get ourselves to wrestle with some things that most people never think to ask themselves before getting hitched. Anyway, it was a good session and we both said we looked forward to doing it again next week.
Meditation: Be still and know that I am God – This one always challenges me because it tells me to stop what I am doing and focus my attention on God as the One who cares for me in the most crazy of circumstances. I have got to stop pushing the Panic Button every time there is a life upheaval. I need to be a leader for Melissa as we head into uncharted territory and show her that her husband really trusts God when it’s not easy to trust God. Good stuff all around.
Week one – Business meetings
I don’t typically blog about life because I don’t think anyone would be interested in most of what I have to say. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating or down on myself – I just know that there are a billion blogs out there and up to this point I haven’t felt the desire or need to add another unnecessary one – especially from someone like me who is just a normal working man. But, after I joined this small group of businessmen who happen to be super friendly and very smart at what they do, I decided to chronicle how a group of men can come together and form a tight bond that goes beyond entrepreneurial capitalism. If you think it is interesting, please feel free to comment.
By the way, my name is Joe and I work in the area of plumbing, heating and air conditioning. I started my business about twelve years ago and it has grown from a two-person team to a thirty-person crack team of skilled workers who drive around in trucks with our company name on it – constant advertisement that I think has made us into a force in our regional industry.
My best friend in the group is the head of a company that does really cool landscaping in Lubbock. His name is Josh and Josh is in the midst of growing his business by carefully hiring hard workers who also have some sense of creativity to add to their work. Josh’s company has just added holiday light installation to their biz and from what I hear they have some experts on the team who can do this skill masterfully. Anyway, Josh is a good guy who has used his entrepreneurialism to tackle an industry that has a lot of local competitors. I asked him the other day how he uses marketing to promote his lawn care company and he told me that beyond mail-outs and flyers, he has moved to web exposure. He has hired a professional web design company that also does Search Engine Optimization to get them to the top of the web rankings. His reasoning is that if he is the first company that appears as people search for a Lubbock landscaping company, there will be an organic trust. People (potential clients) tend to trust what Google ranks highly. I agree with his thinking and might just follow in his footsteps.
Anyway, as a group we usually meet for coffee at this shop inside of a local sports company. We all agree that caffeine is a necessary part of all of our businesses. During our times together we talk about what each individual leader is doing to increase business and become more profitable. Not everyone is able to speak on this every meeting, but the information that comes out is typically invaluable. Most of us ask pointed questions of the speaker about Returns on Investment and when it seems like it will work, most of us give it a shot and report on how it affected our businesses in the next meeting. So, right there it is worth the time.
So, that’s my introduction of the group. Who knows if and when I will blog about our group again but at least I did the hardest part of beginning.
Day 101 – Sunday Depeche Mode
I’ve been digging into my 80’s music lately – mainly listening to bands like Cure, New Order, Erasure and Depeche Mode. There is just something about the sound of those bands that get into me. They stir up memories of good times past and take me back to places where I had great experiences – funny how songs can pull you back in time. Anyway, I put on my waterproof, wireless headphones and swam with extra vigor as Dave Gahan told me about my own Personal Jesus. It was a good morning at the old Lubbock Corporate Housing pool.
Melissa and I had brunch together and we talked, but we didn’t talk the whole time. We actually let silence exist between us and when we talked about it later, we agreed that it was a good sign. Being able to be quiet with someone is a sign that means you are becoming extra comfortable with the other – that you don’t need to fill up silences with useless noise. At least that’s what the marriage experts say.
Since it was Sunday and our bellies were filled with all sorts of pastries, we settled down and did a Bible study together. We typically let each other do individual Bible studies throughout the week and come together on Sundays to not only do one together, but we talk about what each other learned during the week. Today’s Bible study was about how a husband and wife should treat each other. I think we both planned on doing the things that were mentioned, but I was a bit taken aback as to the level of love that was required by me. I am supposed to love her like Christ loves the church – which basically means I need to be ready to lay down my life for her – both literally and daily. I need to keep that in the front of my mind as I enter into this marriage – not get selfish or be afraid. Melissa agreed to be submissive to me (in a Biblical way) so that she remained humble as well. I don’t necessarily understand what this submission means but I think it mainly means having respect for me in all situations. I guess we will both learn over time.
I had dinner with some of the leaders of the realty company that was still insisting on my working with the keyword phrases, Lubbock homes for sale and homes for sale in Lubbock. I agreed with them and told them I would redouble my efforts to make sure they were climbing up the rankings. I asked them if they were seeing more business coming their way as a result of their web exposure and they said they were feeling like a much stronger company as a result. Sales were up and new customers told them that they found them online. Pat on my back, baby. I asked them again about what sort of landscaping they were going to do for their new developments and they shared that they were going to design based on the neighborhoods.
The only other thing I did was take some time in Ecclesiastes to prep for the Bible study that was getting a dry run tomorrow night. Only a couple of people were invited so that I could get a feel for leading a group through the existential morass of this book. Tomorrow would be good for me.
Oh yeah. And I played some video games. I bought an Xbox because I needed some stupid escape time once in a while. A good use of time? Nope. But I would trade in my TV times for some games. Build up my problem solving skills and my hand-eye coordination. Nice justifications, huh?
Day 89 – Tuesday deep thoughts
I love Jack Handey’s deep thoughts from the old Saturday Night Live show and from the books he has since written and I highly recommend them to anyone who needs a laugh or two or a hundred. But my deep thoughts are not as funny – They come from my Ecclesiastes meditation for the day. I read half of the first chapter before going to swim and something in there really stuck with me as I threw myself into the relatively warm waters of my “short term furnished apartments” pool. As my body worked hard so did my mind and it was refreshing. I think I will meditate on something before swimming every day.
What stuck out to me? In my version it says, “the more knowledge, the more grief.” Basically I took this to mean that if you commit yourself to knowing more, you will be filled with more mourning. Like the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Like if I had no idea that people were being slaughtered in the Sudan, I would not be grieved by it. If I didn’t know that there was a very active sex trade, I would not be grieved by it either. If I keep myself in ignorance, I can just walk around as a happy-go-lucky person moving around as if nothing is wrong in our world. Now, I’m not saying that this is the right way to approach life. I think that the author of Ecclesiastes was just saying that you will become knowledgeable about the world around you and you should be prepared to grieve some of it. I count myself as someone who keeps their knowledge very local and thus don’t feel too much grief. But, I think that since God made the whole world, I need to move beyond the Lubbock newspaper to the New York Times so I can be aware of more – even if it makes me feel worse. There is power and depth in dealing with sad things – I think it will make me not take for granted the very limited troubles I experience. Anyway, it is interesting to me that one simple phrase in a book can turn my whole worldview around. That’s one of the coolest things about the Bible. If you want to be challenged to see things as they really are, it provides you that opportunity.
Beyond those depths, I worked a lot on church architects and Lubbock Pre-K accounts. Both of them are steady, but I just have this thought that I need to do more to keep them rising. I’m not being lazy with my efforts on their behalf but I do feel that there is a need to do more for them – despite my not knowing what that is exactly.
As for Melissa, her recovery is incredible. She still has some physical therapy, but her resiliency has been extraordinary. She gives God the credit for that. I do too.
Okay, that’s all I have for today – a good Tuesday – May you have deep thoughts that deepen you but don’t crush you with grief. And as usual, please let me know your thoughts on my thoughts. Thanks.
Day 84 – Thursday Thirst
No more Claritin last night and it was a normal night of eight-hour joy. I think sleep is far underrated – I consider it one of the best parts of existence. And I bet insomniacs would agree with me – Sure there would be no Tyler Durden if everyone got normal amounts of sleep and that would create the absence of an important cultural icon and a lack of soap. But I think it a shame that some people cannot get sleep – what a nightmare (see what I did there, my fellow clever people). I did have another interesting dream about a walking and talking robot that took criminals to a guillotine and chopped their heads off after saying the same thing to each one, “Say farewell to your thinking machine,” and then boom the blade falls. But the head didn’t stay in the head basket. It instead hopped out of the basket and bounced down the street singing the theme to “Friends.” I think I might secretly be crazy or maybe I just need to relieve my work stress with insane dreams.
Anyway, I got a call from my Midland Corporate Housing clients (I think I forgot to tell you that I picked them up) who wanted to see their current analytics. I was happy to send it over since it revealed a good jump in how many people were visiting their site. Strangely though, the guy who I spoke with on the phone with me ended the call with a “bye-bye-bye-bye friend of the spokesman.” Then he hung up. I don’t know if he had a sudden mental break. I pinched myself since this was the kind of thing that would happen in a dream. Was this guy just trying to entertain himself by confusing me or was this his normal goodbye? I tried to shake it off of my mind for the whole day, but I couldn’t. Who the crap is the spokesman? Am I in the Matrix? Have I been transported to Orwell’s 1984?
I was relieved when I got off the phone with the lawn care specialists later in the afternoon because they didn’t say anything like this when they got off the phone. It was just a normal “Bye, man.” When I spoke with Melissa later in the day, I used the weird goodbye to see what she would do, and she called me right back after I had hung up. She was laughing and asking, “Who the hell is the spokesman?” I explained the situation and she thought it was as bonkers as I did. How did that guy get hired by a respectable company? He must have been dared to do it by his colleagues. Nobody would ever do that professionally.
Sorry. I am still ranting about this. It just threw me.
My meditation today was about thirsting for God in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I love the way the Psalmist puts that. What a desperate cry for God’s presence. I feel spiritually dry sometimes and long for more of God, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt that thirsty. I wonder why…