Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Twist to the Test

Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab Corporation, shared in a New York Times article (February 7, 2016), about an experience he had in college. He was about to take the final for his business strategy class. Striving to maintain a perfect 4.0, he spent long hours preparing for this last exam, memorizing formulas to do calculations for case studies.

He described what happened:

     "The teacher handed out the final exam, and it was on one piece of paper, which really surprised me because I figured it would be longer than that. Once everyone had their paper, the teacher said, 'Go ahead and turn it over.' Both sides were blank.

     And the professor said, I've taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last ten weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: 'What is the name of the lady who cleans this building.'"

Bettinger continues, "And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie. I'd seen her, but I'd never taken the time to ask her name. I've tried to know every Dottie I've worked with ever since."

I copied this article and sent it to my oldest daughter, Sarah, who at the time was an art teacher in the Denver public schools. She is about to celebrate nineteen years of teaching. I wanted her to read this story because she naturally follows the lessons Walt Bettinger's professor tried to teach his class. Throughout her time teaching, she has befriended every custodian in the schools where she worked. She not only values their contribution of cleaning her room each day and emptying the trash, but she spends time talking to them, asking about their families, honoring them as people.

Sarah often bakes a batch of chocolate chip cookies to take to the custodians when they have gone the extra mile to clean a particularly messy art room or to offer compassion for a personal struggle they are experiencing.

"The custodians are my best friends," I've heard her say a few times, "because they are willing to take time to do tasks that make my job easier."

When I asked what she thought of the article, she replied, "I showed it to the custodian."

What if one day we went to church and when it came time for the sermon, everyone in the congregation received a blank sheet of paper. What if the pastor started the sermon by saying, "You have a blank sheet of paper. Write the name of the custodian at this church, at your workplace or your gym. Or write the name of your mailman or garbage collector or other people who make your day easier, assisting in some way that you take for granted." What if you gave yourself the assignment right now!

If you have no name on the paper, make it your mission this week to introduce yourself to a custodian, mailman, or trash collector and express your gratitude to them for their work.

Prayer: Loving God, you surround us with people who help us each day, but we have no idea about their name or life circumstances. Help us show an interest in them like you continuously do with us, and show us ways to extend love and gratitude. Amen.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Logistics of Praying for Others

"Will you pray for my mom? She's having surgery next week."
"My sister is having a difficult pregnancy. Can you keep her in prayer?"
"I was just diagnosed with depression. I am really scared. Will you pray for my doctor to find the best course of treatment to help with my mood changes?"

Sunday after church has always been a busy time when people come to me asking for prayer. I scrambled to find a small piece of paper in my purse to record their request or relied on my memory to recall their needs.

However, when I prayed each morning during the week, I often couldn't find my scrap of prayer requests or remember who I had promised to lift up in prayer. I needed to find an organized way to pray for friends as well as my family so I could be faithful to those who trusted me with their joys and concerns.

A Solution

One day, I was walking through the school supplies section of Target. I noticed a stack of unlined index cards and had an idea. I purchased several packages of cards and put together a plan for my prayer life.

On the first card, I wrote names of friends alongside their circumstances. On the reverse side, I wrote names of friends who were pregnant. I started this practice in July, and by December, the card was covered front and back with names, some crossed off as their situation resolved.

I also created a separate card for my husband, our two daughters, their husbands and myself. I put their initials at the top of the card.

Each day, I write the date and my prayer for them. By December, each one has at least five cards covered front and back with my prayers for the year. In early January, each year, I write an individual letter of love and encouragement to my daughters and their husbands. I wrap the letter around their cards so they can see how I prayed for them. The final step is mailing the letters and the cards.

I have found, over the years, that using index cards is an efficient way to organize and record my prayer life.

For Your Reflection

1. What system do you use to pray for other or circumstances in our world?

Prayer: Thank you God for helping us solve problems as simple as creating a meaningful way to pray for those I love. Amen.