Monday, February 14, 2011

My Nervous Valentine

Bill & Lena at the Parque del Amor in Lima, Peru
This from Lena:

He slid what was obviously a wrapped book across the table to me. I was thrown a bit by the Cow-Jumping-Over-the-Moon wrapping paper. Bill could be so poetic one minute, and so utilitarian the next. We had been dating for a year now, and the wise pastor who had counseled us recommended a due date for us to decide whether or not to marry. We had agreed on the end of summer, and here we were on Labor Day Weekend, out for a special dinner. One of us had to decide. Bill had to decide.

I opened the gift, feeling a bit weary. A book. To this point, he had given me no indication that a decision was imminent. When I opened it, I saw that it was "The Mystery of Marriage," a comtemplative book that Bill had decided not to share with anyone but his bride-to-be. Hmm. It was something, but it felt more like a request for time than a promise of marriage. Then the second package came. It was wrapped in the same ridiculous nursery rhyme paper. It was little ... Ring box little. I looked up, and with tears in his eyes, Bill asked me to marry him. Of course, I agreed. That was close to 20 years ago. I remember recounting everything to my sister over the phone later that day, telling her how Bill cried when he proposed. Bill piped in, "I cried because I was afraid you would say, 'Yes!'"

You have to know Bill to understand that that was not an insult. It cost him a great deal to risk making a forever covenant with me, and it's significance was not lost on me. I told that story yesterday to my teenage daughter, and as I did, I thought about how many of life's decisions to love involve sacrifice. It almost isn't love if it doesn't cost us something. Maybe it is time listening or giving a backrub when we are dead tired, or his favorite magazine instead of your favorite cookies at the checkout, or holding our tongue and praying for our mate when we want to lecture instead. Proposing wasn't easy for Bill. In fact, no big decision is easy for Bill. A major purchase can send him to the internet for hours days, scouring for the best deal and the best product. Consumer Reports magazine was made for him. Imagine what a sacrifice making the ultimate "big purchase"--a lifetime covenant--was like for him. In the end, proposing was not a romantic experience for him. It was pure labor.

This note today has two purposes. First, I want to say to my husband, "Honey, thank you for all the little decisions you make to serve me, the kids, and even the rest of my family. I see and take note of more than you think. You are probably the most faithful and loyal person I have ever known."

The second is to say something about love to everyone; that is, that even when you are not "feeling it," you are sowing seeds of love that will CERTAINLY BEAR FRUIT IN ITS TIME. Your mate is more aware than anyone else in the world of what it looks like when YOU are selfless, and no one else (who isn't Jesus) has more power to demonstrate the love of Christ to your mate than you.

The Lord bless and help us all to sow selflessly into the lives of our mates today, so that we can reap a huge harvest of love--one that starts coming back to us sooner than we think. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Nokia needs an ecosystem

This from Bill:

Recently, ran a story about Nokia’s position in the smartphone market ( It was very insightful and I want to comment on it. Everybody who owns an Apple iPhone is really proud of it (and with good reason). Others own a Blackberry or an Android phone. I have one friend who has a new Windows Phone 7—the latest offering by Microsoft. Nobody owns a Nokia anymore—except me. 10 years ago, Nokia was tops in the U.S  They still are in other countries—making up as much as 50% of the world’s cell phones—as much as all the other cell phone companies combined. Those are great stats. Nokia has a lead on everyone and an enviable distribution chain. What they lack is something worth distributing. They make great phones, including world-class smartphones; but they lack one thing—an ecosystem. Here’s an excerpt from a memo written by Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop.

"The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things," the memo says. "Our competitors aren't [concerned about] our market share with devices; they are [concerned about] our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyze or join an ecosystem … This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we've lost market share, we've lost mind share and we've lost time.”

I have a great smartphone. It does all the stuff it is supposed to. But, it’s not part of an ecosystem. It just stands out there all by itself, doing phone stuff. It works great, when I need to talk on the phone. But it doesn’t do all the stuff that an iPhone or Android phone can do. For example, an iPhone or Android device can tell you how much is in your checking account at any moment. You can also use them to scan the barcode of a product and receive Consumer Reports’ evaluations. My phone could do those things too, but nobody is writing that kind of software for it. Nokia stands alone. Unfortunately, no matter how strong Nokia is (having huge market share and great products), they are getting smaller every day. They look strong for now, but they are getting weaker by the minute. The writing is on the wall for Nokia—join a team (an ecosystem) or die.

It is an analogy for life! It could be applied to almost any arena. Soldiers on the battle field must be part of a team. Lions and dogs hunt in packs to survive. Statistically, single people don’t live as long as married people. Students who study in groups get higher grades and have higher graduation rates. Human, animals, bugs and multinational corporations are stronger and last longer when they are part of team. It is the same for Christians. Christians who don’t belong to a church are in dire trouble. Sure, they may personally be able to quote the Bible; but if they’re not a part of a growing team, they’ll soon be picked off by the enemy.
I’m watching Nokia the way kids watch a mouse in a cage with a snake. In this case, the mouse is really big; but it is nonetheless in grave danger. Someone is going to eat them for lunch.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What I long for

This one from Bill:

People often ask us, “What do you miss when you're in Peru?” The answer: Cheddar cheese. It is unforgiveable to serve Cincinnati Chili without it. People think we miss Cincinnati Chili, but we don’t. We take it with us. But, we can’t take 4 years of cheese with us. Peru has all the great cheeses from Europe, but muenster or gouda doesn’t cut it on a Coney! So, anyone coming down to visit, must pack their luggage full of cheddar bricks. The same goes for peanut butter. Thankfully, peanut butter lasts a long time. So, we usually had a well stocked American peanut butter library. When we left, I gave a big jar of Crunchy Jiff to a missionary friend. He immediately recognized its value and the strong statement of friendship such a costly gift entailed. There are a million other things that we used to miss, but we’ve learned to live without them; e.g., Snyder’s Pretzels or American Ice Cream. You can buy them in Lima (which is really amazing), but they’re too expensive for daily consumption. So, one learns to live without. Eventually, one’s love for American food is supplanted by a love for Peruvian.

The question of what one misses is very telling. It reveals, in part, the condition of one’s heart—perhaps, even one’s identity. Are you happy on the mission field or are you longing for home and defining “all that is good” as that which is from the U.S.? If the latter question is true, you’re going to suffer as a missionary. It’s like the stages of grief. To be healthy, you’ve got to reach the stage of acceptance. After our first six months, we began to accept our lives in Latin America and adapted our desires, so as to be happy in our calling. But, six months before returning to the U.S. for support raising, our hearts began to stir with a hankering for things American.

I was looking forward to shopping at my favorite grocery store and eating one of my favorite flavors of ice cream. I dreamt of shopping at BIGGS (Home of True Minimum Pricing) and eating Trauth’s Denali Moose Tracks ice cream. I told Colton, “As soon as we hit the ground, I’m off to Biggs for Moose Tracks!”

Then my mom delivered the news—Biggs was bought out. When we arrived at our home, it was late. About 11:00 PM, Colton and I headed off to Biggs. They were always opened. Now, they close at 10:00 PM. If my longings from Peru were a collection of balloons, you could have heard the first one popping. We had to go to Super Wal-Mart. The Super Wal-Mart was built a couple of months before we left for Peru. Knowing we wouldn’t be around long, I never flirted with it. I stayed true to Biggs and hardly gave Super Wal-Mart a glance. But, at 11:00 PM and in need of breakfast cereal and toilet paper, the lights of Super Wal-Mart beckoned me.

A couple days later I went back to Biggs to look for Moose Tracks. Everything was different. They had changed the layout of the store. Pop! There went another balloon. I found the ice cream isle and began to look. They had a huge selection of ice cream brands: Bryers, Edy’s, and Homemade Brand. They even had Greaters, which is the best ice cream on the planet--costing slightly more than imported caviar. They had lots of good brands, but no Trauth. One large section of the freezer case was taken up by Mayfield Ice Cream. Who ever heard of Mayfield before? Pop! All that I had been longing for—a specific experience and a specific flavor—was gone. It reminded me of the time I took Lena to see my childhood home, only to find that a local hospital had bulldozed it for their parking lot. I couldn’t even tell where the house was. No house. No trees. No swing in the back yard. Nothing but a fading memory. I was a man without at home.

A few weeks later, I spoke to the manager of Biggs. Emotionally, I blamed them for bulldozing my dreams and my sense of home. I told him that I missed Trauth’s Moose Tracks. He told me that Trauth quit making ice cream a few years ago. In the last year, Trauth’s Moose Tracks was made by Mayfield and sold under the Trauth brand. Then he showed me the Mayfield Moose Tracks. I put it in my cart, making sure that no one saw me. It was Super Wal-Mart all over again. I was an unfaithful customer.

Beware of what you long for, because it likely isn’t there anymore. Kids grow up. New highways are built. The local barber shop is bulldozed to make room for Starbuck’s drive-through. The world changes and we do too. One can be careful about what we long for, but not about the act of longing. Our hearts have to long for something. It’s encoded in our genes—a longing for home, a desire for the perfect Christmas or a hankering for your grandmother’s soup. Paul, a missionary who was always away from home, felt it in his friendship with Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:4, he writes, “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” He also experienced it in his longing for heaven. He was torn between the longing to go to his new country (heaven) and the desire to keep working his mission field (earth). In Philippians 1:21-24 he writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

When we’re in Lima and I miss something from Ohio, I remind myself that these are small sacrifices to make, in order to bring heaven to Peru. And when I’m home in Ohio and I feel like my old identity was bulldozed under by progress, I remind myself that I have a new identity in Christ—it’s just another sign that I wasn’t made for this place. I have a real home in heaven and Jesus is getting it ready for me.

So, what do you long for?