I’ve had one of those weeks.
My aunt passed away a month or so ago. I was checking messages on my phone at lunch one day this week and heard her voice. That hit me pretty hard.
I’ve been on a writing deadline for the past few weeks and haven’t had a day off in … well, a while. I don’t even know how long. So, I’m dragging. If I owe you an email or phone call, I apologize. I’ll catch up one of these days.
My cat has a recurring non-life-threatening issue that crops up from time to time, so I had to take her to the vet Monday. Nothing major. But when she hurts, I hurt. She seems to be on the mend, so that makes me happy.
I have some heavier stuff going on, too. But we all do, right?
As I was leaving the gym yesterday morning, I held the door open for a woman who thanked me.
“Have a good workout,” she said.
That was unexpected.
I saw another woman coming out of the gym, so I continued to hold the door open for her. She couldn’t possibly have heard the previous woman.
“Thanks, have a nice workout.”
I thanked her and entered the gym with a little extra pep in my step. It’s crazy how just one seemingly throwaway line can make a difference—especially since I’m usually not one for small talk.
But for two people to say virtually the same thing? That just seemed weird. In a good way.
All of us have opportunities to be kind, even to people we don’t know. Actually following through and doing so can make a real difference. It certainly did with me.
Encourage a stranger today or this weekend. As someone who doesn’t do small talk, I’m not bursting with suggestions for ways to do that. But maybe going one step beyond what a stranger expects would be a great place to start.
In 2016, a 26-year-old woman named Holly Butcher was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer that affects the bones. She passed away in January 2018. But not before leaving behind some advice for the rest of us.
She wrote a Facebook post that has gone viral. You can read it here. It contains some language issues. If you are offended by that, maybe just avoid the link and keep reading here.
Her point about not whining about ridiculous things like traffic, a lack of sleep, a bad haircut, a chipped fingernail, or your body size hits home with me. I’ve complained about most of these things, save the bad haircut and chipped fingernails.
I’ve also complained about work being difficult and how hard it is to exercise. In fact, I’ve done both this week.
Here’s what Holly said: “I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise. Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things ... until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.”
“I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion,” Holly continued. “Appreciate your good health and functioning body — even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.”
Her comment about the way her family celebrated her last Christmas was so moving.
“This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves … strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could.”
We could all learn something from focusing more on cards than gifts, couldn’t we? Especially if we took the time to write something personal inside each one?
A couple of points later, she said what everyone needs to hear, myself included.
“Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo ... enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.”
I’m so guilty of this. I think it’s because I’m afraid I’ll forget the moment, but the thing is, there will always be another moment.
Maybe we’re not meant to relive moments over and over. Not that good memories are a bad thing. But maybe we’re not supposed to try to grasp them, protect them, and savor them in an attempt to recreate them. Maybe we’re just supposed to smile because they happened.
Ironically, I have a photo saved on my phone somewhere that was taken at the end of a sports era. It said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I don’t know who said that originally, but it rings true, doesn’t it?
A couple of months ago, I met a friend for dinner. We were showing each other pictures on our phones and that led to a discussion about memes we’d saved.
Mine tended to be serious and contemplative with a touch of corny humor thrown in. Want some examples of what I have stored on my phone?
One shows a woman lying in the grass with a book in her hands. The quote next to her is from Oscar Wilde: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” I don’t know the intent of the meme’s creator, but I took this to mean that living is associated with reading. That resonates with me.
Another one shows an elderly person’s hand grasping a child’s hand. The quote above their hands is from Carlos Medina: “A soul that carries empathy is a soul that has survived enormous pain.” I find this to be true.
One of the corny ones has maybe 20 different ways to say goodbye that I’m totally going to use with my niece. I can’t wait to hear her reaction when I say, “Toodle-loo, kangaroo,” or “Better shake, rattlesnake,” or “Chop chop, lollipop.” I’m hoping for multiple eye rolls and I suspect I’ll get them.
The last one I’ll share has a picture of a baby with a scrunched up face that says, “So you’re telling me you drive a mile to the gym to walk a mile on a treadmill.”
I can’t remember which memes I showed my buddy over a basket of chicken wings, but they were pretty similar to these because I have dozens of similar memes on my phone.
What do they say about me, other than I skew toward the serious side of life and have a corny sense of humor?
I don’t want to just exist — working, paying bills, going to bed early, then getting up and doing it all over again. Not that anybody can shirk responsibility, but I need space for laughter, reading, contemplation, and recharging. If I don’t get this, I struggle.
I want to be someone who expresses empathy. I want to sit with you and listen as you tell me what’s really going on in your life. I want to remember dates that are important to you. I want you to feel the freedom to cry, ask for prayer, express your anger or rejoice. And I hope for all this in return. Everyone has experienced loss. It should make us empathetic toward one another.
I’m a bit corny and sentimental. I don’t express that side of myself face to face around a lot of people. But if you’ve seen that side of me, that’s means I trust you.
Finally, I want to be someone who can laugh at myself. The baby meme that makes fun of the person who drives a mile to the gym to walk on the treadmill for a mile totally hits the mark with me. Although, in my defense, I drive a mile to walk a mile and a half.
Saving memes on our phones is just a technological twist on saving quotes in a notebook — the way we used to. Not everyone does it but the technology makes it so easy that I imagine most people do.
With that said, if you were to die today and someone had access to your phone tomorrow, what would he or she learn about you based on the memes you’ve saved?
Better yet, why not have a meme-sharing conversation with a friend the next time you see him or her. Make a game out of it. Take turns flipping through the memes you’ve both saved and explain why each one touches you or makes you laugh.
It’ll be a great way to go deeper with one another.
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. ... Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:36, 44)
When the Hendrick Motorsports plane with down in 2004 just outside of Martinsville Speedway, killing ten HMS employees—including owner Rick Hendrick’s brother, John, and son, Ricky—Donnie Floyd, who worked in the paint and body shop, recalled what John Hendrick always said at the end of the Bible studies he led at HMS.
“One thing he always spoke about at the end of every message he had was, ‘Make sure you’re ready. Always be ready,’” Floyd said on the Sports Spectrum podcast in May 2018. “What he meant by that is be ready when your time comes—that you’ll leave this life and go into eternity.”
The year before the accident, Floyd had been considering going back to police work, but his wife reminded him that he might not be at HMS for himself. He might be there for someone else. So he stayed.
“When that plane crashed, it really changed the dynamic of the way I looked at people,” Floyd continued. “It kinda took me back to my policing days and I was reminded when I was in law enforcement that life is fragile. Life is not promised to any of us. We’re not promised tomorrow. We’re given today, and we’re to make the best of it.”
Floyd said the accident was a catalyst—a reminder that God wanted to use him there at HMS, but he wasn’t sure how. Some feared that maybe the Bible study would be discontinued after the plane crash. But HMS brought in a chaplain from Motor Racing Outreach for a while and kept it going. One week in 2015 when the chaplain wasn’t able to make it, someone needed to step up. Floyd did so, reluctantly. Eventually, he left the shop to become the full-time chaplain at HMS.
He now leads the John Hendrick Fellowship Lunch every Wednesday at HMS where over a hundred employees attend the Bible study that the team offers to employees who want to attend.
John Hendrick was ready—not in the sense that he knew when he would perish, but in the sense that he made the best of the time he was given. Floyd was ready, too—ready to step into the gap when his name was called.
How about you? Are you living in such a fashion that you could say you are ready if Christ were to return today? Or if he were to call you home to heaven? How might your life change if you lived with that perspective always at the forefront of your mind?
In the spirit of John Hendrick, make sure you’re ready.
This was an excerpt from Racing for Christ: 50 Devotions for NASCAR Fans. If you enjoyed it, click the link to order or download a copy of the book.
I saw a quote this week that said, “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.”
Leaves look so much better when they are transitioning. Their colors change into brilliant hues of oranges, reds and yellows and instantly, they make us pause to admire them.
Harvard’s website goes into great detail about the process: “Leaves change color during the autumn because the amounts of pigments change as the leaves prepare to fall from the trees. All leaves gradually lose chlorophyll during the growing season, and this loss accelerates before leaf fall. Under optimal conditions this process of chlorophyll loss is very orderly and allows the plants to resorb much of the nitrogen in the structure of the pigment molecule.”
I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounds a bit too clinical for my reflective nature. I prefer this simpler explanation, even if I don’t agree that their reason for transformation isn’t beautiful: “While the leaves in their autumn hues are beautiful, the reason behind their transformation is anything but. We are, in essence, watching the leaves starve themselves and die.”
Transformation is frightening. The fear of the unknown, the fear of the process, and the fear of loss keep us from desiring it. But without the transformation process, we’d remain unchanged. And as much as humans tend to hate change, it’s necessary — at least for the Christian.
In Romans 6:6-8 (ESV), the apostle Paul says this: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
As you drive down old country roads or sit around the fire pit this fall and you find yourself admiring the beauty that springs forth from the death of leaves, consider your own spiritual transformation. It may be frightening and painful, but it’s beautiful in God’s sight.