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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NEW BLUE SHOES



NEW BLUE SHOES

          Many years ago, when I was still in graduate school studying Physical Therapy, I happened to be doing an internship in a small community hospital which had nursing home attached to it on one end.  One day the nurses called and said that they wanted me to assess an elderly Alzheimer’s gentleman to see if some therapy would help him get moving around better, so they could care for him more easily.
          He was a skinny, smiling old chap who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds, who just looked completely content to be lying on the bed.  His dementia was advanced enough that he couldn’t really understand things too well or follow directions for what we wanted him to do.  I suggested the nurse and I try to get him up, but I didn’t want his feet to slip on the tile floor, so we placed some of those extremely attractive hospital socks on his feet.

          As I helped to spin him around to sit up on the edge of the bed, his body went rigid like a board (I’m not kidding at all – he was stiff just like he was strapped to a plank), and we couldn’t get him to bend and the waist and sit up.
          Using my very young therapist intuition, I placed a transfer belt around his waist, and suggested to the nurse who was on the other side of the patient, that if we tilted him forward and lifted on the belt, that perhaps once we got him up onto his feet, his instincts would kick in and his standing reactions would take over and then we could see how he could move around.
          I put my foot in front of his on the floor as a brace, and we gave a 1, 2, 3 count and lifted on the belt to tip him up onto his feet, but the old guy surprised us. As we lifted, he deftly and nimbly stepped over my foot, took a flurry of skittering little stiff-legged strides across the floor and right up the drawers of the dresser which was next to the bed!
          For a moment the nurse and I were in complete shock and astonishment as we both held on to the belt around his waist and behind his back and the little old man levitated completely stiff in the air with us holding his trunk and his feet now sitting on top of the dresser!  Talk about planking – this guy was the Master!
          In the midst of this shocking moment, the old man looked down at his feet, with those blue hospital socks, then turned and smiled at me as we held him in the air and proud as could be asked me, “Have you seen my new blue shoes?”
          We couldn’t help but burst into laughter of the hilarity of the situation, and I was afraid we might drop him, so I finally simply scooped him up in both of my arms and laid his plank-stiff body back on the bed.
          I’ve thought back on this situation some over the years, and it still brings a smile to my face, but has also taught me a few lessons as well, about how often times as we go through life, we can easily get distracted about the reality of what is going on around us.  We can so easily get caught up in the less important things in life that we fail to notice what is most important.  In essence, we get so focused on our “new blue shoes” that we don’t see what life is trying to teach us in order for us to improve.
          For some, their distracting “new blue shoes” might be their job and they become so focused on this that they mistakenly think that is who they are and what defines them.

          For others, the “new blue shoes” may be a greed for money and acquisition of more material “things” that they think will buy them happiness, but which are often hollow, unfulfilling, and only bring temporary false-joy.

          For others, the “new blue shoes” may be excessive, time-sapping video games, television or social media which dull the senses and waste away potential productivity.

          In reality, the potential list of “new blue shoes” we focus on is vast and endless.  But if we could take a minute, loosen up our perspective and shift our focus away from those “new blue shoes” and look at the larger reality around us, we would see that there are forces in our lives which are trying to help us actually become something better than what we are in our current state of rigidity.  The purpose of life isn’t to get “new blue shoes” but to experience growth, change and improvement that we can carry over into the eternities beyond this mortal realm.
          A loving God and Savior have provided many sources of help and guidance along the way to achieve this change… if we aren’t too rigid to let them.  Some of these helping sources come in the form of family members, sibling, parents, grandparents who care about us and are filled with wisdom and experience to help us through our struggles.

          Another source of strength may come from religious leaders, life counselors, or caring friends.

          Other inspired sources of guidance beyond our own understanding come in the wonderful power of prayer and meditation.

          Or the Holy Scriptures.

          And even in looking beyond ourselves to provide meaningful service to others.

          If all we are focused on in this life are the “new blue shoes” (trivial things of no lasting importance), we will miss out on the true sources of peace, love, joy and fulfillment which are found in devoted caring relationships with our spouse.

          The “new blue shoes” can also, if we are not careful, rob us of the precious moments and years with our family and children, which all too quickly grow up and move on with their own lives.

          We would all do better to shift our focus from whatever our “new blue shoes” are in our lives, (which we might think are cool but are really just cheap hospital socks of worth that will wear out and fall apart rather quickly when put under stress) and instead focus more on others around us, we will find that life is a wonderful learning and growing experience with plenty of help along the way to raise us up, allow us to stand and become something better than what we are today.

          As the good Master said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Matthew 6:19-20

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Traffic Jams and the Power of Grace



 Traffic Jams and the Power of Grace

            It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog.  Life has a way of getting busy and often distracts us at times, doesn’t it?  But I feel the pull today to share another small nugget of understanding which came to me one day while driving in traffic.
            As I mentioned in a previous blog ( A Cure for Driving Boredom ) part of my current employment, I drive a small company car around each day from house to house providing home health physical therapy services to people in need.  Now the fairly small Southeast town of Rexburg, Idaho is no booming metropolis by any stretch of the imagination, and usually any traffic jams that occur are the result of an area farmer driving his tractor or some other enormous farm implement down a roadway like a lumbering tortoise!

            For this I am extremely grateful!  I much prefer the slower pace than the frantic rush of a big city any day!  I’ve done both throughout my life and I would gladly spend a few minutes behind a combine looking at open fields than stuck in 8 lanes of packed traffic sucking exhaust fumes.
            But despite the smaller feel and slower pace of the area in which I live, there are still plenty of people in too big of a hurry to get where they’re going for some reason or another, and this can cause for some occasional traffic tension, even for a calm demeanor guy like myself.  One of my pet peeves is that for some reason, people don’t seem to know how to use their blinkers properly.  You can be waiting for a car to pass, only to have them turn in before you, or sometimes they will suddenly cut you off as they turn across your path of forward progress with no warning.

            This type of thing use to really bother me, but I’ve come to realize over time, that my blood pressure and my day are both a lot better if I just realize that other people are probably simply involved in their own busy lives and priorities and just fail to plan ahead or notice those around them (but that is a totally different topic altogether for another discussion).  Instead, I try to be grateful to avoid any accidents throughout my life on the roadways.
            Awhile back, I did have one occasion however, which taught me a valuable lesson, and that is what I would like to share today.
            It was a perfectly good day, as I was in my little company car, heading out of town to visit my next client.  As I approached the crowded interchange near the freeway outside of town, I moved over into the left turning lane (after using my blinker correctly I might add) as I prepared to go under the freeway and gain access to the onramp on the other side.  Without warning a large, jacked-up pickup truck with big tires came careening around my, cut me off and whipped into the turning lane in the small space between me and the car ahead of me, causing me to slam on my brakes as the busy traffic came to a halt.
            My first instinct was to light that little ember of rage, which seems to burn just out of sight and mind for many of us, but which if left unchecked can easily erupt into a road rage inferno.  Just as my subconscious was duking it out over whether to unleash the fire of indignation or douse the dancing sparks, the honk of a horn pulled my attention to the car stopped in the lane beside me.
            Glancing to my right, I saw the smiling, sweet face of a lady I knew as she waved and wished me a good day silently through the panes of glass. (I'm not implying by the picture below that the lady was a dog, I just thought it was a cute picture of a dog waving hello!)
Then it hit me like a light bursting through the clouds (something which I already knew, but which became brilliantly clear in that moment).
            Here I was sitting in a company car with the name and logo of my employer plastered all over the sides and back of the vehicle, and I realized that I wasn’t just driving around representing myself, but my boss, fellow employees and the company for which I work.  And…. people around me notice that!  I don’t just go through my day and life in anonymity within my own bubble of steel and glass around me.  I represent much more than that.
            Then a second layer of realization dawned upon me as the Spirit whispered even deeper into my soul.  This lady knew me not only as an employee of the company I work for, but as a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and a priesthood holder.  She knew who I was and what I was supposed to be representing.  I was grateful that I had not, as of yet, acted badly.
            A quick prayer of forgiveness rose out of my heart as I realized that because of the fact that I am a Christian, and have made covenants with my Lord and Savior to take His name upon me and represent him, that even though it may not be visible like a logo on the outside of my car, I have branded myself His… and people around me should see and notice that in how I act and treat other people throughout my travels and interactions each day.
            Even if that lady had not noticed who I was beside me in traffic that day, God looks down upon me (and all of us) with rapt attention to the details of our lives and how we act, think and feel, and interact with those about us.  He is patient and kind and constantly beckons us to come to higher moral ground with His call of “Come unto me.”

            As Christians of whatever faith or religion, as we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer and the eternally encompassing power of His Grace and Atonement, that acceptance should change us.  It is not that we can Earn heaven through our works or behavior, but the power of His Grace should motivate us to Learn heaven by changing us into something better than we currently are.  In effect, as we accept Him and His grace, we take His name upon ourselves, which means we should act and behave in the way that He would if He were here in our place.
            This is the miracle of His grace!  That it provides for us, through no power of our own, the ability to change from our fallen and imperfect state, into something that desires to be better and more Christ-like both inside and out.
            Whether we are driving through busy traffic, or waiting in line at the checkout stand, or interacting with co-workers, and especially in our families within the walls of our own homes, we would all do well to remember who we represent, and how His grace should influence, motivate and empower us to become more like Him.