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So someone asked, in response to the first post about the fish tank (, if I am saying we need to send our Domino Bill fish type people back to the pet store for the sake of community? And I would have to answer “not really”. Although there are times when that has to happen like when a school has to remove a student from a class  or a coach has to cut a player who is keeping the team from doing well because of all the junk that is being caused. It is actually the easiet way to deal with a problem person who hurts the communities he or she is a part. Below is one of my favorite clips of  “sending people out of community”.

Veronica Salt in Willy Wonka

But the reality is many times it is impossible and not the best thing to do. I am one that wants to give grace and second chances to people with the hope that they will change. Because unlike fish, people can get over their nature of hurting others and can change into someone who is full of life and health. There is a great line at the end of the orginal Willy Wonka movie when Charlie asked about what will happen to the kids who were eliminated. Willy tells him, “they are being restored to their terrible selves (and here it is – the grace part) but hopefully will be a little wiser for the wear”. I may be reading a lot more into that than was meant but I believe people can change and that statement makes me smile.

So how do we deal with the “Domino Bills” in our life. How do we deal with them when they are ruining the community that we are a part of? That is a really tough question and I would love to hear how you deal with it. Boundaries need to be set, intervention must sometimes be done, but grace and love play a huge role. Even with the orginal Domino Bill in my tank I had two choices of getting him out of the tank. I could take him back to the pet store or flush him down the drain. I did not flush because honestly him tormenting my fish was not his fault. It was my fault – I had been warned that it was in his nature to dominate a tank. He needed to be in a tank that only had his kind of fish or a small bowl where it was all about him. Domino fish just do that.

Well many people destroying community have not been made to do it but have become that way because of things in their past we will never know. So we set boundaries, have hard conversations, penalize when it is necessary but we try to do it with grace and love knowing that they can change. And when the situation calls for removal,like my fish tank did, we do it in such a way that there is an opportunity for a second chance. I am planning to visit that pet store again soon – I hope I hear that Bill has been sold to someone with a tank full of Dominos and he is happily swimming and enjoying!

Two weeks ago I started a salt water fish tank. I have always wanted to do a fish tank but never had the opportunity – until now. Some of my staff, friends and myself have set up a huge fish tank in my office. It is  75 gallons and after much work over the last couple of weeks I have the salt water at a pretty good mixture, added a protein skimmer to make the water pure, put in some great lava rocks to make it look interesting and have four small but nice looking fish. The tank has become a very nice edition to the Community Life office.

But what I did not realize about having fish is that I do not just have cool specimans tooling around and eating every little bit – what we actually have done is set up a little community. It is a community with a pecking order, habits, and rules. It has been a great surprise to realize that this little water world could actually teach our office some interesting lessons about community.

Take for example Bill the Domino. We started last week by buying two Chromas and a Black Domino Damesel. I bought them in the store because they looked cool and the main reason for having a salt water tank is the cool factor – you want cool looking water with really colorful funky fish. So even though the pet store worker warned me I bought the Domino that my son Siah quickly named “Bill”. The introduction into the tank went great – that is a whole other post – because the introduction process of a fish to a new tank gives a great picture of “transition” .

The transition went well and for the first two days the three fish – Bill, George and Gracie (named after the great Vaudeville stars) swam around seemingly pretty happy. Except for one interesting thing – Bill, the bigger fish of a different kind, stayed on one side of the tank beside a little cave I created and George and Gracie (both Chromas) stayed on the other end. After about five days they all swam the tank but were never in the same location. Then came the weekend – and when I came in to feed them on Sunday I noticed that George and Gracie were hiding in the small piece of coral in the center of the tank while Bill was happily swimming all over. This worried me a bit – “were the fish sick?”  So I made some checks on the water. I even reached in and messed with the coral to get them to come out, which they did but then went right back in.

Monday told the story as we noticed George and Gracie hid in the coral as Bill swam around and around it. He was harrassing the Chromas. The tank had been taken over by Bill the Domino. He was the only one swimming, eating and enjoying this cool world that I set up. So armed with complete power I made the decision to remove Bill from this little world. And no I did not flush him – I took him back to the pet store and was given credit to buy two more Chromas. Soon after I introducded the new Chromas to the water world Bill and Gracie slowly came out of their hiding place. They would swim out – look around – and swim back in. This took place constantly over the first day – three days later all four are happily schooling around and there is peace in the tank.

But Bill the Domino has got me thinking about community. Actually there are several things bouncing around my head but I will focus on one, which is how one fish could impact the entire tank in such a way to destroy community. I do not think Bill was biting the other fish. But his presence created great tension and fear in the tank. You know one person can do the same thing to any community – a neighborhood, a church, a workplace or a team. Sometimes it is the difficult actions and attitudes of one that can cause unrest in some and cause others to act badly. And once the unrest starts in the community it impacts everyone.

So I guess I am thinking today mostly about not being like Bill the Domino in my communities. I do not want to be the person that causes unrest and chaos around me. I want to be more like Jill and Bill (Siah wanted a fish named Bill in the tank) the Chromas who have entered the tank and helped stabilize it and create a pretty happy space. I want to be the person that impacts community for health, happiness and wholeness. The way we conduct ourselves, the attitudes we have, the way we treat others, and the amount of grace we have for others’ mistakes will impact those around us in ways that we do not even realize.

Deciding to make a splash with our life can be good or bad. A bad splash will ripple on others just like a good one. It is in who we decide to be and the type of difference we decide to make. Let’s all jump high and make huge splashes that ripple on all those around us – but let’s make good ones that bring life, hope and fun.

Top Five

I have always wanted to journal or keep a diary. I have attempted one or the other ever since I could write. I remember finding a notebook I created in elementary school where I talked about the imaginary basketball games I had played that day in the back yard (hey I am an only child – don’t make fun). I efforts over the years usually began at starting points like the beginning of the year, beginning of a school year, or at the beginning of monumental stages of life like marriage and fatherhood. But even that fatherhood journal ended much like the yearly attempts – after about two weeks it just stopped. The reasons are many but the main point is that I did not keep them going.

So a couple years ago the idea came to me to combine my desire to record life events and something I have always enjoyed doing – top five lists. No this did not come from the movie High Fidelity, but did love that movie because of all the “top fives”. Basically I love to rank things. I rank music ( have my top 100 songs in a playlist on my Ipod), movies, sporting teams, vacation spots, restaurants, meals, sport’s complexes…… I am sure you get the idea. So I thought – what if each day I just rank the top five things that happened during the day. Not the top five best things – but the top five most significant things.

It has been amazing. I am coming onto about two years now and I have to say it is one of the most rewarding practices I am doing right now. I have only missed about 10 days in the last two years… because one I love to rank and secondly it is so easy. There are some days I just make a list and then there are others that I think deeply and analytically write about what happened. It just depends upon what is in me.

The best part is that now I have a snap shot every day (except for 10 days) of the past two years. And when I have time I look back on last year just to see what was happening. Here is an example (link). I wish I had been doing this all my life. There are so many lost moments (good and bad) that  I would like to see how I would have commented on them at the time. But alas it is a great experience now. A great way to honor the important moments of a day – like today working on a fish tank with my friend Dave or last night enjoying my kids watching Jaws for the first time. Great moments that can easily disappear into the busyness of our lives.

On this blog I will be including ranking lists. I plan on ranking the ordinary like moves and music but also soccer clubs, KY basketball gyms I visit, and maybe even my five favorite tropical salt water fish. I would love to hear some of yours as well. I would especially love to see a top five from someone’s day that they will never forget. This practice is just another way to jump into life with both feet – to jump into every day and get as much out of it that we can. Happy jumping!

Worth the Splash?

Worth the splash? (two weeks ago today  – just did not post it)

So I am in Arkansas today. My two sons (Wes and Siah) are here to see my parents and attend a family reunion. It is a 12-hour trip from Wilmore, KY to Fayetteville, Ar. It is a tiring and sometimes frustrating trip by car. The best way to do it is either to do it in two days or get up early and get there as quickly as possible. One thing that makes this trip even longer is when we add things a long the way – like a quick trip to Searcy where we used to live, or the desire to eat strawberry shortcake in Bald Knob, or to experience Jay’s pool or the lake ( in Heber Springs.

On this trip we set out very very early to try to experience the lake in Heber. I wanted to introduce my boys to the “Great Seed”. Some of you will know the cliff I am talking about. It is a huge cliff just down from where I grew up. The reason for the name is – another story. We set out to get to the Great Seed but with a short stay looming ahead of us we did not want to go that far out of the way.  We set our sites on Jay’s pool. This is the pool I grew up swimming in, which I talk about in a previous blog.  Now that I live in KY I try each summer to get through Walnut Ridge to have a quick swim. Once the boys and I stopped just long enough to jump in for 15 minutes and then refreshed we headed out for the next 8 hours of the trip.

We made it to Walnut Ridge by 12:30 central time with the idea of a nice long swim before we ventured on. The bad news was it was pouring rain when we got there. So we wasted time waiting for the rain to end – looked at the church we used to throw snowballs off of at cars (not me and the boys but friends in Walnut Ridge). We went by the Polar Freeze (incredible barbeque) and had ice cream at McDonalds (the one I was at on opening day some time in the mid 80s). But the rain did not stop. It looked like we would visit with Vickie Clark (Jay’s Mom) and head on to Fayetteville when Siah had a wonderful idea – he stripped down and jumped in. His reasoning was sound  – “We will get wet any way” – “We will not let this stop us!” He jumped into the situation with both feet and led his brother and father into two full hours of jumping fun. The rain eventually stopped and the fun at the pool – jumping off that great diving board was had for a couple hours.

Afterwards we were so tired – Jay advised us to drive the northern route ,which I kind of want to have a talk with him about. It was the hardest and longest drive I have had in a long time. It rained on us the whole way. We had multiple slow people in front of us and I was the only one awake in the car which was torture. And the whole way I thought – “Was the opportunity to splash worth it?” And the answer kept coming back – “Oh yea – it was worth it!” Which is the same thing that happens most every time I jump into life with both feet hoping to make a big splash.  Happy Splashing!

Rent A Friend

Yesterday I heard a news report about a growing business on the web called “Rent a Friend”. No, this is not something X rated or even R. This would be very PG or G. It is a business that offers exactly what it advertizes – rents people friends who do not want to go to a party, a movie, or a restaurant alone. Here is a link to a similar news report – not the one I saw on TV

The station reported that this has been growing in America recently but in some countries like South Korea it has been a successful business for years.  The cost ranges from 10 dollars an hour to 150 . The report talks about how this is the solution for people who have tried and tried but have just not found that close friend and are tired of spending time alone.

A lot could be criticized here about this website but I want to point out what this news report says to me – people are desperate for community. We might be living in a world where more and more people are taking classes in their PJs at night to get their second degree, working from home, and shopping online to bypass the crowds but still we have a basic built in need to be in relationship with others. We are wired to be seen and see others – to feel known.

This news report makes me ask myself some question about the people around me. How many are hungry for friendship and companionship? And am I working to widen my circle to allow more and more people in? I work with a woman who is always trying to widen the circle – bring more in. If we have a group sitting in the student center and a person walks in she will invite and ask people to spread out. If a group is going somewhere to eat and she sees someone who might look faintly interested she is grabbing them and inviting. This news article makes me think about her gift of inclusion and motivates me to be more like that.

I would be interested in hearing how this news report makes people feel, think and how if it motivates in some way? It kinda makes me want to start a website that offers friends for free – if you need a friend – come join us.

I hope your splash is huge today!

Both Feet

Jumping off the Great Seed in Heber Spring, AR

I once heard in a Sunday sermon the question “How do you get into a swimming pool? Do you get in by sticking in a toe, a foot, a knee and then eventually half your body? Or do you take 20 steps back and run as fast as you can and do a cannon ball— where you make as big a splash as you can?” That question was very easy for me – I love cannon balls.

One of my favorite things to do in middle school was to go to my best friends house (Jay) and swim. It was pretty cool having a friend with a pool. Especially when it was my best friend and his home felt like my home. I would still say that his pool was the best home pool I have ever swam in. Mainly because of the diving board. It was so springy and it would make me soar! Our favorite game in that wonderful pool was “rock the pool”.

We needed at least three others and when there were like 10 it was awesome. We would line up and start flying off of the diving board as quick as we could. One would go off to the right, the next to the middle and then the to the left – over and over again until the pool was like a wave pool. You had to move fast because if you didn’t you were going to get bombed. Because each jump was a cannon ball – and sometimes we jumped so fast and flew so high that our knees would get scratched on the bottom of the pool – but the splashes we would make – wow!

After moving from that town I found my house a half mile from a recreational lake. Through the trees, down a path, and around a large rock was this incredible cliff that was about 40 feet high. I didn’t cannon ball much – but every chance I got I was flying off of that thing – with both feet.

The point of the question in the sermon was how you live your life and more specifically your Christian life. Do you ease in or do you jump in with both feet like a cannon ball making as big a splash as possible? There is only one answer for me – both feet. Hopefully you will see in your interactions with me in person or through the web that I seek to live life like that. Because life is meant to be lived jumping high, soaring long, and then splashing a contagious splash on as many people as you can!