Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Words of Wisdom from a Runner and a Fictitious TV Character

"Nostalgia is truly one of the great human weaknesses... second only to the neck."


I'm really going to miss Dwight Shrute. If you can sift through his unwavering loyalty to a dying paper supply company in Pennsylvania, his intensity when it comes to beets and science fiction, and his childlike love for authority, you will find, on occasion, some nuggets of truth that he offers.

Like the quote above.

I think Dwight is actually correct on this matter. Nostalgia really and truly is one of the great human weaknesses. The temptation for people to live in the "glory days"is perhaps one of the most threatening temptations there is. Nostalgia, in the most subtle of ways, binds itself around our wrists and ankles and chains us to that which was and no longer is.

Listen, I'm all for honoring history and remembering good times and upholding useful traditions. What makes me cringe is when "remember when's" turn into the litmus test you measure your life by.

"This isn't good, because it's not the way it used to be done"

"College/high school/fill-in-the-blank were the best years of my life"

"Hey remember when _______? Yeah, those were the days... it's just not the same anymore"

"I just wish I could go back to when things were like they used to be"

Statements like that make me want to pull my hair out.

When I'm constantly comparing everything to one period of time that I deem the "Golden Years," I'm killing the very creativity and sense of wonder and anticipation that God wove inside of me - to keep me moving forward, to keep me exploring, to keep drawing me nearer and nearer to the fullness of who I was created to be.

Simply put, when I live in the past, I'm dying.

I get really sad when I see people who believe their best days are behind them. Shackled by nostalgia's soft whisper that the glory days have passed by, they become stuck. They become cynical. They become bitter. They become critical of newness, of change, and of anyone who chooses a different path.

The saddest, though, is that these people become disconnected and irrelevant.

I've seen too many people go down this path, and it's heartbreaking because it is like watching people die before their time.

For a lot of people, I think the life trajectory looks like this:

Best days behind, and a long life of only looking back and wishing for what once was

I like to think this is how we are meant to live life though:


People on those two paths lead completely different lives. I've already described the "downward-slopers". The people on the latter graph see their best days ahead of them, though. They live life with hope, with faith, with joy and with creativity and new ideas. Because they, unlike the other group of people, believe the best is yet to come.

Obviously rifts and valleys will accompany the latter graph, it's not a straight shot to the top. But regardless the obstacle or adversity, the people on this graph still have eyes to see great things ahead. 

Like Waldo.

Waldo is a runner in his early 70's from Utah. I met him while running the Bismarck Marathon last year. Around mile 7, I came up beside him and ran next to him for about two miles before I ran on ahead of him (yes, please be sure to congratulate me on the accomplishment of passing a 70 year old man when you see me next). During those two miles we shared a conversation, primarily revolving around running. 

He told me he had ran over 90 marathons. In the last 4 years. 

I will repeat that again. Ninety. Nine with a zero behind it. Ninety marathons... in the last four years. He was 70 when I met him. That means from age 66-70, this man ran NINETY marathons.

Needless to say I was fascinated and wanted to hear more. So he told me about some of them. And then I asked him what his favorite ones have been. And he rattled off a couple (namely Boston), but then he said "you know, I'd like to think my favorite marathons are yet to come"

He is 70 and he has already ran 90. 

That. Is. Awesome. 

I actually googled him recently and found a news interview with him. You should watch it here - Where's Waldo 

And that's what I think life is supposed to be like. We're not meant to hang our hat on things long behind us. We are made to keep moving forward.

I want to be like Waldo. Though I've had some awesome moments in my life already, I anticipate the best days are still ahead of me.

The temptation is always there to look back. But I just have to keep turning my head forward.

And whenever you find yourself longingly looking over your shoulder, also remember to turn your head forward  - the best is yet to come. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wedding Planning Tips & Ideas

Two months down, seven more to go.

As the big day in September creeps closer and closer, I find myself increasingly consumed with wedding planning. At first, I thought this to be an overwhelming mountain I had to conquer, but as I have begun to navigate through this process, I'm gaining more confidence. Bit by bit, I'm getting things done.

I feel more capable and my stress is subsiding.

I've learned a lot, but I don't want to selfishly hold onto this knowledge. I want to impart what I've learned: ideas, tips and tricks for planning a great, stress free wedding.

So if you are in the process of planning a wedding, think you may one day plan a wedding or if you would just like more ammo to critique other people's weddings, then check out my Wedding Planning Tips & Ideas 2013. (The Knot & Pinterest have nothing on this).

Tip #1 - Flower Power

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The earth laughs in flowers." Another wise person (me) said something very similar - "a wedding laughs in flowers". 

Flowers are your way of provoking a deep, emotionally charged response from all those attending your wedding (typically the emotion you are going for is joy). The flowers you choose should bring out laughter and merriment. Honestly, next to who your groom is, I would say the flower selection is the single most important decision of the entire ceremony. 

However, flowers can get expensive. So one idea to have the same floral appeal without spending large sums of money is to include them in the cost of your bridesmaids dresses.

Bridesmaids are the perfect canvas to express yourself in a cost efficient manner

Tip #2 - Dress To Impress (For Less!)

We've all seen Say Yes to the Dress and how much some of those women spend on dresses that will only be worn for a matter of hours.

That is so silly when you consider the fact that you can make your own beautiful wedding dress for next to nothing just using common household items you already have. For example: 

Christmas lights and trash bags.
Toilet paper. 
Balloons.
The flag in your front yard... 'Merica.
So don't get caught up thinking you need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a dress. Odds are you can make a beautiful one by just scoping out the items in your home.

Tip #3 - A Reception to Remember

The reception is another area where it is tempting to overspend. You want your guests to have a good time. You want them to like you. You want them to leave saying things like "wow, that was the best wedding I've ever been to. Those people are awesome and way cooler than our other friends. Why did our wedding suck so much? Too bad it wasn't like theirs."

You want delicious, elegant, classy food. 

The best way to get all of those things without breaking the bank is a little thing I'd like to call "potluck." Have your guests each bring a dish. Now you don't have to deal with the headache of meal planning. All you need to do is make sure you have a long white plastic serving table big enough. (Hint: your church should have plenty. Swipe one from there, then bring it back at a later time. No one will ever know.)

Your guests bring the food. You bring the table. 
Why settle on one food theme when you can have a smattering of KFC fried chicken, lasagna, zucchini  bread, banana pudding and five different varieties of potato salad? Your guests will be singing your praises by nights end and you won't have spent a dime!

Tip #4 - The Power of a Good Photographer

Another great area to save some money on is the photographer. A picture is worth a thousand words, not a thousand dollars. 

The best way to get solid, affordable photography is to find a friend who just got Photoshop. They will be eager test out their new Adobe program and will jump at the chance to take and edit your wedding photos. Plus, they will be able to do cool and somewhat unnecessary photo effects, like make you blossom out of a white rose or have your groom hold you in the palm of his hand.



These are the memories you want to keep and cherish. 

Tip #5 - Party Favors

Break free from the traditional give-aways and goodies. A can of personalized mints? Monogrammed cookies? Boring. Give your guests something unique that they will actually keep and cherish and remind them daily of you. 

Animal figurines are a terrific way to capture your love in statue form. 

Two mice-maids in love.
Tip #6 - Invite in Style

Seriously, you're going to cut down all those trees just to tell people about your wedding? Don't be so selfish. It's 2013. Gone are the days of paper invitations. 

Go eco-friendly and just send a mass email out, inviting everyone to your wedding. Chances are, your guests will think more of you for being so considerate of the environment. 

An easy way to class up your email wedding invitations is to include, at minimum, four wedding clip-art pictures. Here is an example: 


Oh, and don't forget to add fun border art!



Tip #7 - Above All: Express Yourself

Always remember: this is your big day. Your wedding should be an extension of your life. Every crazy thought you've ever entertained should come to life at your wedding.

The Fourth of July is your favorite holiday? Put fireworks on your cake!


You like Japanese cartoons? Make your bridal party dress like Hello Kitty!


It's hunting season? Well, don't let your wedding get in the way of that!


You're into tossing dead chickens in the air? Then your wedding day is the perfect day to do the things you love to do together!


Remember - this is your day. Express yourself. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Going Home

Everyday I skim news articles to get caught up on what's going on in the world. This could easily be considered the most depressing part of my day, as most of the news is... well... depressing. Sinkholes, murder, scandals, accidents, death, natural disaster; it's easy to read the news and desperately wonder what is happening to this world.

And if the news isn't depressing, it's absurd. Take the vibrant new friendship of Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un for example. Even the absurd news leaves me wondering what is happening to the world we live in.

But today I came across a story that reminded me that, despite the pain and chaos still present, we are en route to the redemption of all things.

Take a moment to read this story about Billy Ray Harris, a Kansas City homeless man whose life recently took a drastic turn for the better (click the link).

Billy Ray Harris
It may not always seem like it, but God is in the process of making all things right. He is giving dead things life, mending the things that have been torn apart and bringing the homeless back home.

And this isn't just something that is going to happen one day, it is currently happening now.

It is a blessing to hear stories like this because it is so easy to turn on the TV and see a world void of God's hand. But there are bigger things going on everyday that we don't ever see or hear about. I have to believe there are countless stories like Harris' in the midst of the brokenness - countless stories of good, love, grace and redemption winning. 

I believe our job as Christ followers is to highlight these stories and point out everything that displays God's hand making all things new and right in this world. If we don't, then they get lost in the ugliness that still exists. 

And I don't want stories like this to get lost. This is powerful. I need to be reminded that things are, in fact, changing and that God is still moving things forward. I also think our world is desperate to hear that kind of hope as well. 

So lets have open eyes today to see God's kingdom, because it is present everywhere. Lets not be paralyzed by what is not yet made right, but instead be people who join God in his redemption of all things. 

And lets be people who point others to that reality everywhere we see it taking place.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Time Peace University

Time is a currency I never seem to have enough of. 


I think I have hours, days and weeks to spend on anything of my choosing. But like scraping the bottom of an empty purse when I just want a pack of gum, I find myself too often wondering where all my time went and wishing I had just a little more. It never seems to add up to enough.

You may have noticed that I haven't written on this blog in about two or three weeks. However, I'm guessing you probably didn't notice, because if you're like me you didn't have time to notice. Regardless of if you noticed or not, though, I haven't written anything - largely because of insufficient time funds in my account.

(Brief subject switch) I'm a big fan of Dave Ramsey. In a culture that is financially frivolous, Dave has made a killing teaching on basic, no-brainer money management principles. I've drank the Ramsey Kool-aid, and am totally on board, envelopes and all. 


I took his Financial Peace class (which I think everyone should take) over a year ago. At that point, I was in a state of constantly wondering where my money was going and never feeling like I had enough. The thing was, I wasn't even that bad with money. Other than a car payment, I really didn't carry any debt. I wasn't out spending frivolously and squandering my life away. 

I just wasn't in control of my money. And because of that, every little unplanned thing put me in this stressful crisis mode. In many ways money, or the perceived (perceived is a key word here) lack of it, was controlling me.

Perhaps the biggest no-brainer thing that Dave taught me was that I have the power to tell my money what to do and that it shouldn't work the other way around. Through solid budgets, adequate savings and practicing delayed gratification, I gradually began to regain control. Now, though I don't make truckloads of money (turns out youth ministry isn't as lucrative as one would think), I feel like I have enough and often times, more than enough. I don't have that feeling of scraping the bottom of my purse every two weeks anymore and I definitely don't wonder where all of my money is slipping away to.

So, back to time. 

In the chaos of my busy life, I feel a lot like I felt a little over a year ago in regards to my money - like I am out of control. Time controls me and I never seem to have enough of it. And at the end of every day, every week, and every month I find myself wondering where it all went and what exactly I spent it on.  

I want to write more, I want to read more... I just want to take a leisurely walk with my dog for crying out loud! There are so many things I want to do but there is never enough time. 

At least that is my perception.

Much like my perception used to be that there was never enough money.

But the truth is, like money, there is enough if you work it properly.

What I'm starting to realize is that time really works the same way as money. We exchange the time we have for various things every second of everyday, just like we exchange money for the things we want. So if time works the same as money, I wonder if some of the basic money principles work with time to help get me to a place where I am telling my time what to do and not the reverse. 

Learn to take control of your time
Let's start with a budget.

If I have 17 waking hours in day, what if I budgeted them like I budgeted my money? A 10% tithe could translate into a little over an hour and a half a day of serving or investing in other people. Putting 10% in savings looks like spending close to two hours a day resting. 

Adding in work time, you still have five available hours a day which equals 35 extra hours a week to budget how you choose. So then the question is, how much are you going to invest in your home, in your friendships, in your hobbies, etc. with those remaining hours? 

To many of you, that may sound impractical. Two hours a day relaxing? Only eight hours a day working? That may even sound lazy.

I don't think it is, though. I think it's balancing our time budget and not overspending in certain areas. I think it takes more discipline to only budget so much time for work per week than it does to dump all your time there and wonder at the end of every week where it went and lament that there's never enough time for your family, friends or doing the things you love. 

The problem is, we live in a culture where working more than 40 hours a week is the norm and we feel guilty if we take a breather from that. I know I feel guilty when I actually take my day off and do nothing but relax on that day. And I feel guilty if, after working an entire weekend, I want to take some time off on Monday. So I usually don't because no one else does when they work all weekend. 

But I don't want to feel guilty, nor do I think any of us should feel guilty for reevaluating how much of our time we spend in certain areas. If we are spending 60% of our income on one thing, that would be worth looking at and reassessing. And time is worth far more than money. 

We all need to learn to budget and prioritize our time better. 

Learn the power of NO. 

I believe learning how to say "no" goes hand in hand with taking control of the time we have. I also don't think the word "no" is very common in our language. 

But I think we need to relearn that word. 

Saying "yes" to every opportunity that comes before you is a lot like impulsively spending on everything at the mall you see that you want. Impulsive spending is the quickest way to run out of money... it's also the quickest way to run out of time. And to spend impulsively usually means you spend on things you don't really want or need instead of the things you desire the most.  

When I say "yes" too much, I end up saying "no" to some of the things that are most important to me. 

Much like taking a break, there is a lot of guilt associated with the word "no" in our culture. 

Don't feel guilty for saying "no", though. Having a ready "no" in your arsenal is one of the healthiest things you can do to proactively guard your time budget. 

Priorities

Really, it all comes down to priorities. Yes, there will be seasons that are more busy than others, but on the whole, how you spend your time is largely up to you. To say there isn't enough time is a false perception. You have enough time. I have enough time. 

The question is, where am I spending it and how can I budget better?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Green Grass and Plastic Bags

The other day I stumbled upon a news story entitled The Disgusting Consequences of Plastic Bag Bans.


You should check out the article, but in summary it was shown that 51% of reusable bags were infested with coliform bacteria. In San Francisco, where plastic bags are banned, e. coli related hospital visits are on the rise and deaths from food borne illnesses jumped 46% since the ban. 

Yikes. A well-intentioned environmental movement gone awry. 

But I'm bringing this up not to make a point about environmentalism. I love the environment. I believe as stewards of God's creation we should take care of it. 

What this article does remind me of, though, is the principle that whenever you say "yes" to something, you are saying "no" to something else.

That may sound like a "duh" statement, but I really don't think it is for a lot of us.

There is sacrifice involved with every decision. I think a lot of times we're (or at least I'm) quick to either make decisions hastily or make decisions out of fear or make decisions assuming the grass is greener somewhere else. Rarely do I sit down to evaluate what it is I'll be saying "no" to when I say "yes".

You can't say "yes" to everything. Something has to give. 

Sometimes, if I'm in a place of discontent in my life, I assume making a decision to go somewhere else, do something else, or be with someone else will fix everything. Maybe you can relate to this. I'm certain you can because everyone has fallen prey to envy at different times. 

Discontent and envy will team up and tell you you can have all of the positives of your current experience absent from all the negatives if you just jump the fence and get on the other side. And not only will you get to carry all your current positives, but you will inherit new and different ones. And the reason you're discontent won't exist anymore. On the other side of the fence lies green grass, rainbows, butterflies, happy feelings and everything else you've ever wanted. 

We want what we don't have
What envy and discontent don't tell you, though, is that there is sacrifice involved in every decision. If you decide to jump the fence, you leave everything behind... not just the negatives. You are saying "no" to everything on your current side of the fence in exchange for whatever lies over there. 

There's no best of both worlds scenario (sorry Miley Cyrus).

When you say "yes" to one thing, you are inevitably always saying "no" to something else.

So, am I saying to never take a risk and jump the fence? No way. Sometimes you really may need to jump the fence and experience the unknown. Sometimes you need to sacrifice and say "no" to your side of the fence. A lot of times we say yes to our fear or yes to comfort at the expense of something far greater. 

What I am saying, though, is that you have to hold a realistic view of what you're leaving behind; what you're saying "no" to. Assuming there's a magical land where you have it all will leave you jumping fences for the rest of your life. 

And that's an exhausting way to live life - motivated by envy and discontent. 

"And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." - Ecclesiastes 4:4

Jump the fence if you need to. Stay where you are if you need to. What we also learn from Ecclesiastes is there is a time and season for everything. There is a time to jump the fence and a time to stay put (my translation). Just know what, who or where you're saying "no" to so that you're not taken captive by disappointment or regret later. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Garage Sale Apocalypse: Insight and Survival Tips

Like a scene from Walking Dead, they descended upon us in droves.

There wasn't time to think. There wasn't time to act. 

We were trapped. In our own home, we were trapped.
Droves, I tell you. Droves
I looked over to my roommate, Addie. I could see panic and despair written on her face, mirroring my own. We had no baseball bats, no guns; we were defenseless. Nothing we did could keep this mob at bay. 

For a brief moment, I thought maybe this could be the end. 

Were these people zombies? One might easily assume this. 

However, no... they were something far worse.

They were Saturday morning garage sale-ers. 

Though they hungered not for flesh and blood, their intensity wasn't any less frightening or sinister. I had no idea, but on any given Saturday you can find herds of them mindlessly wandering from garage to garage, picking them clean of 25 cent nicknacks, and leaving destruction and tears in their wake.  

We were young, we were naive... we had no idea it would be like this. But our innocence nearly killed us, as we were not prepared for the insanity that ensued upon raising our garage door on that fateful Saturday. 

Though we survived, we know many aren't as lucky. 

Because I don't want anyone else to face the same chaos we faced unprepared, I want to bestow upon you some tips for surviving your first garage sale. If you come prepared, you most assuredly have a better chance of survival. While I can't make any promises, I can say that if you adhere to this advice you will probably make it out alive.

Survival Tip #1 - Know Your Opponent - This is the most fundamental survival tip I can offer you. Above all else, you must know who (or what) you are up against. The North American Garage Sale-er is not like you. I repeat: Not like you. Because of their striking resemblance to other human beings, you may be tempted to not assign much threat to them. You may assume that they, just like your other peers, are calm, level-headed individuals who will conduct business in a professional manner.

Herd of North American Garage Sale-ers
This false assumption is your first mistake. And you will realize this immediately as they violently disorganize the display tables you meticulously spent hours organizing the night before. They come, they pillage, they leave. You will be tempted to get angry and maybe even shout. Remain calm. Remember, they are attracted to sound and your unrestrained outburst will draw more "shoppers" to your garage. And there are already too many to handle as is. 

Survival Tip #2 - Destroy the Brain - the easiest way to disable an aggressive "shopper" is to go for the brain. You do this by refusing to drop your prices down by 25 cents. This confuses them and they eventually leave. 
Neurons stop firing when bargaining ceases.
Survival Tip #3 - Buddy System - Do not attempt to organize and run a garage sale on your own. There are endless waves of "shoppers" that will flood into your garage in a given morning; to have to fend them off by yourself is suicide. Too many of them, only one of you. You need a buddy to have your back in case you are bombarded by five "shoppers" wanting the same $5 DVD player. Your buddy can make distracting noises or flash some lights or point out a $1 purse to draw the shoppers away from you. 

A Garage Sale Coalition of five strands is not easily broken
Garage sale-ers can be distracted, you just have to know how. But this knowledge is pointless without another able-bodied individual around who can help you navigate a garage sale apocalypse. Without one, you will surely be overtaken. And for what? A $5 DVD player?

Get a buddy. Or five. 

Survival Tip #4 - Don't be a Hero - Now is not the time to be Clint Eastwood. These are seasoned garage sale-ers. They know what they are doing. You may think you can take on six at a time in an efficient manner, but this overconfidence will be your demise. It is a garage sale; you are on defense, not on offense right now. 

Survival Tip #5 - Organize a Meet-up Point In the event that your garage gets overrun with "shoppers," forcing you to evacuate, it is critical you and your buddy have an agreed upon meet-up point. You may be able to flee to safety by yourself, but you won't really be safe if you are stranded by yourself somewhere. 

Survival Tip #6 - Barricade - Keep the "shoppers" at bay by forming a barricade around you and your buddy(ies). Typically a simple check-out table should work, but be prepared to flip it on its side and use it as a shield if the "shoppers" get out of hand. Keep other heavy pieces of furniture close by that can be added to the barricade as needed. Think Les Miserables. 

Not even this can keep certain garage sale-ers out
"Shoppers" are tricky though. Don't be surprised if, in an effort to disassemble your barricade, they attempt to purchase pieces of it. 

Survival Tip #7 - Frequently Check for Infection - Garage Sale-ing is contagious. Frequently assess yourself to make sure your health hasn't been compromised. If you find yourself looking at peoples' shoe laces and wondering what they'd take for them, odds are you are in the beginning stages of becoming a garage sale-er. Seek help immediately. 

Survival Tip #8 - When in Doubt, Run - I would definitely say that you should spend the few weeks leading up to your first garage sale in intense cardio training. There is a strong possibility your garage will be overtaken within the first 45 minutes of an attack. Typically if you can survive the first 45 minutes, you are in the clear. But most garages are overrun in the early stages of sale. Should your garage become dangerously unmanageable, be prepared to run. 

Refer to survival tip #4. Now is not the time to be brave. This is your life we're talking about here. 

Survival Tip #9 - Cut Your Hair - Trim those locks. In case you have to run, you don't want grasped hair to be the thing that stands between you and freedom. 

Survival Tip #10 - Don't Let Emotions Get in the Way - Because "shoppers" look so much like the people we know and love, it is easy to let down your guard. Just because the guy trying to buy your TV for 50 cents looks like your beloved and trustworthy uncle John doesn't mean you should give in to his haggling. 

Your TV is worth more than 50 cents. Don't let your emotions get in the way. This isn't your uncle John or your best friend Betty. This is a garage sale-er. They will chew you up and spit you out and take your TV for 50 cents without feeling any remorse.

Survival Tip #11 - Don't Use Fire - This is perhaps the most important rule of all. As a last resort of desperation you may be tempted to just set the whole garage on fire and end it all as you flee to safety. While this may seem like an appealing idea in the midst of having overwhelming hoards of "shoppers" try to convince you to sell them pants for 10 cents, it is a bad idea. I repeat: bad idea.

Even as a last resort, don't burn down your garage.
Not only will you be without a garage, but we all know that bright light attracts more "shoppers". Upon arrival and seeing there is no garage, they will probably try to buy your fire. And if you sell the fire for less than your garage is worth, then you have made a mistake.

*****

Well there you have it. I hope you find this helpful if you are considering hosting a garage sale of your own someday. 

The world may feel like it's ending, but remember that it will be over by noon. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Riding the Magic School Bus

"Wow."

This was my first thought on Saturday night when approached by a couple who appeared as though they came straight from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Ok, that was rude.

Maybe more like straight off the Magic School Bus. Think Ms. Frizzle incarnate.

Wahoo!
I was selling merchandise for a concert at my church this past weekend, minding my own business, selling CD's, when along comes the aforementioned Potter-Frizzle couple.

"Do you travel with the band?," the wife inquired.

"No, I don't. I work here, I'm just selling merchandise for them tonight," said I. 

"So you don't know the band?"

"No, I don't."

"Will you be spending much time with them?"

"Um, probably not. Maybe just in passing."

"Well if you see them, will you let them know that one of their songs has been my ringtone on my phone for the last few years? We don't want to wait in the autograph line to tell them ourselves, so can you do it?"

I laughed and said I'd be sure to do that. Funny joke.

But I could tell immediately by the intense stare of Ms. Frizzle, the affirming look of her husband and the way she was holding up her phone to my face that she was serious.

"THANK YOU. I really want them to know. It's been my ringtone for years. Thank you. SO. MUCH."

At this point she was shaking my hand and making eye contact for about 6 seconds longer than is socially acceptable. 

So of course I was outwardly polite, but inwardly rude (sadly, a skill I've mastered) and wondering what planet her and her husband just drove their magic school bus from. They did mention being from one of the local Methodist churches. (Not making a statement there, just trying to include all the facts). 

Anyway, that encounter was their way of passing the baton to me to retell a story and get a few chuckles. Their work was done, I could've taken it from there. But they graciously grabbed the baton back from my hands later that evening and ran even farther before handing it back again.

For that, I thank them.

Towards the end of the evening, as the band was signing autographs, the couple ended up standing in line. Apparently they didn't trust me to pass on their message of such high importance. 

Fair enough. 

I watched it all unfold and was eating the moment up like candy. I watched as they recruited someone they didn't know to call their phone at just the right moment so the band could hear the ringtone. I watched the confused, but compliant face of the lady they recruited. I watched the couple look ridiculous as they approached the band and let them know the news about their phone. I watched the band smile and nod. I watched the Ms. Frizzle woman repeat herself again, with an even greater sense of urgency, because clearly the band didn't get the importance of what she was trying to tell them. 

I watched her look of despair when her phone didn't ring as she was being shuffled through the line. 

I watched her run back up to the band's table one minute later when her phone finally went off. I watched as she held her phone proudly in their faces and said "See! It's one of your songs!"

This scene, in all of its awkward glory, was funny but also seriously made me wonder what world these people were living in. I mean, to think that this trivial piece of information was important enough news that the band just had to know... you'd have to be a little bit disconnected from reality, right? 

People do that though. 

We tend to hang our hats on things of self-ascribed "importance" and will go to great lengths to passionately communicate and/or protect those things. 

I know there have been times when I thought something was so important but I missed the bigger picture. I look back later and wonder how I could've thought those things were so important. 

Maybe you've been there too and can look back on things you once held as important that really weren't in the context of a bigger picture. Perhaps it was a small piece of tradition, perhaps it was getting personal needs met at the expense of others, perhaps it was getting worked up over something incredibly trivial. 

Typically, the "world" the Magic School Bus is stationed at in these moments is the world of selfishness. Anytime I get frustrated when people place too much importance on stupid things and wonder what world they're living in... that's probably what it is. It's the world of selfishness. It's a world where you can't see beyond yourself and your needs, wants and preferences. 

Anytime I look back at times I've placed too much importance on things insignificant, it's typically because my bus has taken a detour to the world of selfishness.

Honestly, as disconnected from reality as this couple at the concert appeared to be, I know it's very easy to get to that place.

The quickest way to disconnect yourself from reality is to indulge in selfishness. 

I have to keep myself in check, when I find myself being passionate about certain things, to make sure I'm grounded in reality. I have to put the importance I place on various things in the context of a world beyond myself. 

Many things that are important on Planet Eryen aren't important anywhere else. 

Same is true for all of us.

So, the question I asked of this couple, is a question we all need to ask - 

"What planet are you living on?"