Monday, April 27, 2009


I first met Curt in the Cairo airport. We'd emailed each other a few times before this jet-lagged rumpled shirt meeting, and he confessed to having a thing for redheads.

My email at the time had been, and he assumed the rdh stood for redhead not RDH as in Registered Dental Hygienist. He had already taken a shine to the gal behind the moniker. And, my hair was a tad red at the time, so even though I explained it to him, I don't think he ever thought differently than "Cathy Redhead."

I proceeded to spend the next month traveling Egypt with Curt, his wife Bev and a handful of well-traveled and delightfully interesting people. As I traipsed solo through the North African desert, Curt and Bev quickly became my surrogate parents though they had a decade on my own 'rents. We smoked hookahs in a tea house, ate shishkabobs in a star-blanketed picnic on the bank of the Nile, and even raced through the cocoa dunes on camel back. The trip was magical, and the company a joy. Departing Cairo at the end of the long and other-worldly adventure, I thought, well, here's another pair to add to my Christmas card list.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Curt told Howard the last time we saw each other that I was his "best friend." He was 88 years old and had flown out for a wedding in Virginia. He rented a car and drove a total of 8 hours to see us for one precious night. We laughed and he talked non-stop about his adventures. He had just gotten back from Japan, where he and his wife had lived for a year teaching English many years ago. He'd reconnected with old friends there and surveyed the changes in his old stomping grounds.

He told us of the sale of his house, the one he and Bev had purchased in the sixties when GE had moved them from East to West Coast. A few million-dollar bidding war ensued for the pretty property with gorgeous gardens in Los Altos. Not that he needed to worry about retirement income. He had invested well, and after leaving the corporate world, he spent his time with Bev volunteering and traveling the globe. I was fortunate enough to meet them on one of those jaunts.

We stayed in touch, we emailed often, and, when I moved out to CA, I found myself a mere 20-minute drive from their home. They had my sister and me in for tea, for lunch and for friendship. My sister became a pen pal/mentor to their special needs granddaughter.

When Bev got breast cancer, we prayed for healing, and God delivered. She joked about her wigs and gave us her trademark laugh, but there was worry in Curt's eyes. He couldn't hide his concern and I'm not sure he even tried. He was a gentle, sensitive soul, and loved to tease.

When I got married, Curt and Bev had a honorary place at my mother's side. They toasted us, and we wished to emulate their marriage and their gusto for life.

Curt and Bev held my newborn daughter in their arms, babysat her in their home on occasion, and even donned little pink party hats at her first year birthday party.

When the cancer came back, it was Bev who kept everyone's spirits up. But you could see Curt start to crumble. We'd moved away by the time Bev lost her battle, and had only email and cards to connect us to Curt. It was enough. Friendships aren't written in time spent by someone's side, but in the depth of your heart.

The letter came in the mail today. The three daughters sent out a form letter to the people in Curt's address book and told us that he'd suffered another stroke. He died in his own bed on tax day.

Howard had tears in his eyes when he told me the news. I said, "Now, he's with Bev and they're together again."

And, my friend is gone, but not forever gone.

3 biz

So I got so much email about my last post, and I think I've offended some people, so if you think I was writing about your business, I probably wasn't.

Though, I was trying to make a statement of those who don't practice what they preach, and I did base it off of three real, live businesses I'm in contact with. Well, just know, that I was talking about how bad it is not to practice what you preach. And, even I'm guilty of that. (I'm a parent!)

I have other pressing thoughts on my mind today, so I'll have to delve into this topic at a later date...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

the matrix

So I know this business. It runs at a deficit. It's a noble place, doing good in the community and helping those less fortunate. But, it runs in the in red like our Carolina soil.

And it preaches for people to live within their means. And it teaches families how create a budget and stick to it. And it praises those who become and stay debt free. Great stuff, right?

Only, the business doesn't follow those rules. The business has large debt and doesn't work within a prudent budget. The business is above the rules, not because it's "holier than thou," but because it does God's work: aiding the poor and stregthening the weak. It takes money to do that.

So, I'm left wondering...can it really preach a Dave Ramsey lifestyle to its customers when the business itself can't do better than most households in America?

What would you say to the business owner?

I asked one time and I got a cryptic answer about how the business is not making the money it should based on the matrix of similarly sized businesses. The customers just need to buy more. Hmmm, I didn't know it worked that way.

With that logic, if I buy a bigger house with a bigger mortgage, but my household income stays the same, then I need to go to my employer and say, I need more money. You need to pay me more becuase I should be making more based on the matrix of similarly educated individuals. The matrix says I should be making more than I do, so you need to pay me that because that's where I set my budget.

My employer is going to look at me like I'm sporting a pink mohawk. What I get is what I get based on the job I have here, not what another widget worker in Cincinnati or down the street is making.

What this business earns it what it earns. It doesn't matter what the matrix says it SHOULD earn, it earns what it earns.

Instead of basing their budget on real-life intake, they base their budget on a matrix that clearly doesn't apply. They spend what the widget factory on the next block spends, even though the other factory generates more income.

People who use this business are encouraged to base their budget on their current household income, but the business itself designs its own budget based on a matrix of identical companies? Huh?

Honestly, the whole thing confuses me. I think I'll go consult the matrix.

Monday, April 13, 2009

bridges vs. canyons

It's difficult to stay on the right path when the enemy whispers in our ear at every chance--noticing even the smallest chink in our armor--and he's ready and willing to parade our fears and faults in front of us like an over-the-top Macy's Thanksgiving Day event.

When I'm tired, I allow anger to take shape. And, when I'm feeling abandoned, alone or abused by another COG (child of God), I'm righteous in how I'm going to "get back" at those who have wronged me.

Mostly, I'll turn and run. Nothing says "you pissed me off" like a Grand Canyon of distance coupled with the silence on the moon. You want me? Well, now you can't have me!

But, did they "tick me off" or am I just being overly sensitive? Do they even notice the chasm between us?

It comes down to communication. Taking the difficult step and mangling the words crafted to express what's going on with me and inquiring what's going on with you. Bridging understanding rather than giving up. Beating on like a boat against the current.

It's hard. But, it's what we should do. Because, so often it's not about what "they" did to "us," it's about how "we" took it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

it's not about the money

So she said, "but that's not helping people!"

When our church put up butcher paper along the walls and asked the congregants (love that silly word) to offer ways to help those in need or ask for help from others, Hubby and I grabbed pens. Hubby asked for help finding a job, and we also offered some ways we could help out others in our community. One way was to invite people to join us at our table. Our cup and plates runneth over, so we thought, hey, guys, come on over! We'll make you dinner. Our kids can play. We can talk and eat. We'll do the dishes.

Seemed reasonable enough to me.

She didn't think so. She thinks we need to make meals and deliver them.

"But," I said, "others are doing that. Inviting people to our table for company and companionship and good food is what we're giving."

"That's putting strings with your gift," she protested.

"No, that IS the gift," I shot back.

See, we get so caught up in thinking we have to give things to people. Money, food, clothes, whatever, we concentrate solely on transfering items to people. And that's good. But, I sincerely believe that there's more.

Jesus invited us into a relationship with him. He's all about the relationship, with him and between all of us. You can't have a relationship with someone when you drop off a meal and leave. Or, you take a bag of clothes to a shelter. Or, you write a check. Those aren't relational. Those are important, but they're not the whole story and they don't delve into what Jesus is about.

Likewise, just because someone has money doesn't mean they don't need someone to minister to them.

My church spends a lot of time on the poor. And, that's great. I love them for it. But, in my church's backyard is a very wealthy part of town. The attitude of some congregants is that "those wealthy people" need to give more and do more for the less fortunate in our society. And, that could be true.

However, does anyone ever ask, how can we minister to "those wealthy people?" They may have full bank accounts and full bellies, but they are probably emotionally bankrupt. You don't have to be poor to be desititute. The rich need compassion and love, too.

We get so caught up in the "helping the poor" that we forget we are directed to help EVERYONE! Not just someone who doesn't have food or shelter. We are required to do that. But, how about doing something harder? How about helping out a rich person? How about helping heal their heart?

God is above money, and we should be too. But far too often when it comes to ministry it's totally focused on money--who has it, who doesn't, and how we can get the people who have it to give it to the people who don't.

But, what if we sidestepped money? What if we didn't rate peoples' needs on the basis of their bank accounts?

What would it look like if a financially deprived person who is heart healthy helped a financially sound person who is heart heavy?