Mirror, Mirror

I hate to shave.

Shaving wastes about seven minutes daily. The math equals to almost three days annually. If I live to eighty years of age, then eight months will have been dedicated to scraping whiskers off my face.

I hate to shave.

I try to minimize the time and maximize the experience. Over a year ago I Shaving Mirrorbought a shower shaving mirror from Bed, Bath, Bathroom, Basement, Bargains, and Beyond. However, the reflective surface never impressed me. After a cleaning with Windex, the so-so surface dissolved into a blur.

So my wife and I visited the Bed, Bath, Bathroom, Basement, Bargains, and Beyond to buy a replacement. I found the same model and held it up for my wife’s inspection. “See,” I said with annoyance, “it’s as bad as the previous one.”

Tracy gave me THAT look wives reserve for their sometimes slow husbands. Then she reached over and pulled a plastic layer off the reflective surface. With a sigh, she asked, “You DO realize that these ship with a protective cover over the mirror, don’t you?”

Sure enough, I could see myself clearly in the mirror . . . which got me to thinking . . . .

When we arrived home, I went to the master bathroom shower and examined the old mirror. I carefully scratched the corner with a fingernail. Lo and behold, a protective sheet peeled away from the surface. I stared in amazement at the clear image looking back at the idiot looking into the mirror.

The incident recalled a New Testament passage from James 2:22-25. The author—traditionally identified as Jesus’ brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church—emphasized good works are an essential complement to deep faith. He wrote:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like!

However, it’s hard to DO God’s word if we don’t first READ it. So open your Bible and take a good look. You’ll be amazed at the clear vision God reveals.

And, by the way—I still hate to shave.

Cents per Therm

Last month I renegotiated the annual agreement with our natural gas provider. No need to name the company—let’s just say it’s an electric membership corporation in northeast Georgia. 🙂

Natural Gas FlameIn 1997, Governor Zell Miller signed a bill deregulating natural gas in Georgia. Politicians hoped to encourage greater competition among companies and lower prices for consumers. Each household now picks a supplier among a handful of choices.

The companies provide the same product—natural gas is a commodity that does not vary in quality regardless of provider. However, the prices can range greatly.

Consumers must choose between a variable and fixed rate. Variable rates . . . well, they vary! The cost goes up and down based on supply and demand. Fixed rates remain the same for a period of time typically ranging from six months to two years.

Companies charge for natural gas per therm. Don’t worry, I looked it up on the Internet. A therm equals 100,000 British thermal units. So there you go. A therm also provides the energy equivalent of burning 100 cubic feet of natural gas. NOW we’re getting somewhere!

When first faced with this incomprehensible equation, I thought we might need a handful of therms to make it through the winter. However, the gas company doesn’t sell them by the dozen. A nifty little meter outside the house measures the flow of gas.

Last month my gas provider (the aforementioned electric membership corporation in northeast Georgia) sent a reminder that our twelve month contract would soon end. If we wanted to avoid a variable rate, we could renew the contract at $.49 per therm.

It sounded like a really good deal—even better than last year. However, we had received a postcard from another company offering the exact same product for $.34 per therm. I called the current provider to inquire about the difference. The clerk on the other end immediately agreed to match the other offer.

Wait a minute.

I’m a good customer and pay my bills on time. We currently have THREE—count them, THREE—different utilities with the same company (the aforementioned electric membership corporation in northeast Georgia), including electric, gas, and home security monitoring.

Call me naïve, but I assumed the company would offer its current customers the best possible rate from the start. Instead, we haggled over the price like a merchant and buyer in a Middle Eastern marketplace.

I’ve discovered a similar phenomenon with companies providing Internet service, satellite TV, and other utilities. The practice amazes me. The gas station doesn’t bargain over the cost per gallon of unleaded. The grocery store doesn’t haggle over the price of milk. The Bible doesn’t offer an introductory 8% tithe. Yet this is an accepted practice for some industries.

If the officers of the aforementioned electric membership corporation in northeast Georgia happen to read this blog, here’s an idea. Treat your good customers better and offer them the best possible deals. It will make you money in the long run–and save me an annual phone call.


Adam Sandler starred in the 2006 movie Click. Sandler played the role of a workaholic architect named Michael Newman who struggled to balance work and home.

One evening he visited a Bath and Beyond to purchase a television remote control. Newman Remote Controlstumbled into a backroom filled with gizmos and gadgets. An eccentric clerk sold him a remote control with unusual powers.

The architect discovered that the universal remote actually controlled his universe. The pause button caused everything around him to freeze. Rewind allowed him to revisit past events. Fast forward enabled Newman to avoid unpleasant or boring moments.

Without spoiling the plot, let’s just say the use of the remote led to unintended consequences. What initially appeared to be a blessing ultimately turned out to be a curse. The main character eventually realized that he had willfully skipped over the most important parts of his life.

I am not an Adam Sandler fan. However, the movie’s previews intrigued me. I eventually saw “Click” on network TV. Despite an interesting premise, I found the plot disappointing. A less charitable part of me thought that Sandler’s character got everything that he deserved.

During the movie, I pondered the uses of a universal remote that really controlled the universe. One could skip over television commercials, dental procedures, graduation speakers, political campaigns, committee meetings, in-law visits, sick days, and other disagreeable events. (Note that I did NOT include Sunday morning sermons in the list!)

If Click ended with a moral to the story, then the movie’s message reminded viewers about the importance of everyday life. We tend to recall the milestones of our years; however, most of life’s journey occurs between the milestones. Ordinary, boring, same-old-same-old, everyday living is when and where real life occurs.

Even the painful parts of life play a role in shaping our character. ESPECIALLY the painful parts of life play a role in shaping our character. An old Arab proverb declares: All sunshine a desert makes. Trials, troubles, tribulations, and tragedy help form our character. With the perspective of hindsight, we realize that we have become the people that we are today because of all our yesterdays.

The ultimate irony of the movie—perhaps lost even on the film makers—is that escapist Hollywood entertainment also fast-forwards us through a segment of time. Viewers disengage from reality in order to enjoy fantasy. I am not railing against popular movies and books, but perhaps we could more profitably use such time in the actual living of life.

  • If we are not careful, real life slips past without notice.
  • Click.
  • A spouse’s words go unheard.
  • Click.
  • A chance to help a neighbor vanishes.
  • Click.
  • Time to play with your child disappears.
  • Click.
  • Days slip past with no time for prayer.
  • Click.
  • Money slips away.
  • Click.
  • Healing words remain unspoken.
  • Click.
  • A sunset, moonrise, and star-spangled night go unnoticed.
  • Click.
  • Life is over.

Each day God gifts us with the precious present of life. We dare not waste a moment. Hit “Play” and enjoy every second.

This IS the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Driver’s Education

In 1974, Coach Henderson taught the Driver’s Education course at Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia. Perhaps he possessed a first name, but we all called him “Coach.”

Driver EdHis real job was managing the football team’s offensive line. During the school day, however, he also taught teenagers how to drive. Fortunately, he was better at the latter than the former since the Warriors went 2-8 that year.

Students spent time in the classroom before graduating to an actual automobile. We learned the rules of the road and traffic signs in preparation for the driving exam. Decades before computer simulators, novice drivers practiced in mock-ups of car interiors. A battery of tests checked visual and aural acuity.

The local Ford dealership in Canton supplied the school with a fleet of cars. Coach Henderson would pile four students in the car, and off we would go. Little wonder that the hair he had not already pulled out turned prematurely grey.

I learned many valuable lessons in Driver’s Education. Most primarily pertained to operating a motor vehicle; however, a few lessons possessed a wider life application. I didn’t learn everything I needed to know in Driver’s Ed, but some of the lessons have continued to inform me over the years.

Coach Henderson always stressed keeping one’s eyes on the road. Over and again he would recite: “The car will go wherever you look.” This dictum applies both on and off the road. Vision determines life’s direction. Fixing one’s sight on a higher goal guarantees personal growth. Glance to the side and you can end up in a ditch. Look backwards too long and no progress is made at all.

Another Henderson adage warned: “Where there is a ball, there is a boy.” If a ball bounces into the street, then a child is almost always in close pursuit. Several times I have slammed on the brakes moments before I actually saw a child darting out into the road. The coach’s advice has saved more than a few lives over the years. If we pay attention, most trouble can be avoided before it begins.

When in danger, Coach Henderson drummed into our heads: “Use your brakes AND your steering wheel.” Most drivers react to danger by locking down the brakes. Following Newton’s Law of Inertia, however, cars in motion tend to stay in motion. Even in an era of antilock systems, braking alone is not always enough. Coach taught us that many accidents can be avoided by steering around the obstacle. His words have saved me on more than one occasion. If you’re headed for a collision in life, consider taking a new direction.

Coach Henderson taught us that defensive drivers look a long distance down the road. Both rookies and pros make the mistake of focusing on the car immediately in front of them. At highway speeds, however, reactions occur in split seconds. Good drivers anticipate situations by glancing further down the road. Cultivating a greater perspective is always a good idea.

Teenage drivers think they know it all; and I was no exception. I did not appreciate the lessons Coach Henderson taught our class forty-some-odd years ago. However, these basic rules continue to inform my driving and life.

  • Watch where you’re going.
  • Most accidents can be avoided.
  • Consider a new direction.
  • Maintain your perspective.

Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

School Days

Back to SchoolSummer vacation has disappeared like morning dew in the dog days of July. Family trips to the beach, lake, and mountains are nothing more than distant memories. Area students and teachers are already preparing for school to start.

During my childhood, students enjoyed a three-month summer vacation before returning to class around Labor Day. Teachers gathered one week beforehand for a mysterious rite known as “pre-planning.” During Open House, we excitedly perused the student rosters posted outside the classrooms. Then we received a list of required school supplies.

My father worked for Sears-Roebuck and Company, so his employee discount guaranteed our customer loyalty. We rode in the family station wagon to the local mall for back-to-school shopping. In those days, Sears strategically placed snack bars in the center of the stores. I still associate the start of school with the aromatic mélange of Spanish nuts, popcorn, and fruit slices.

My mother and sister spent interminable hours looking at new clothes. I could have cared less. Three pairs of blue jeans and a few shirts met most of my fashion needs. The Sears’ brand “Toughskins” jeans featured double-layered knees for active boys. The new denim stunk with chemicals, and the stiff fabric chaffed in unmentionable places until softened by a washing machine.

The only apparel item that really interested me was a new pair of tennis shoes; but not just any tennis shoes. I insisted on wearing Keds—“the shoes of Champions.” The commercials promised that the sneakers enabled the wearer to “run faster and jump higher!” With my laced-up tennies, I could race the wind and win while leaping broad canyons with ease.

School SuppliesAfter enduring the ordeal of clothes shopping, we would visit the school supply section. We selected three-ring binders with heavy-duty denim covers. The rings snapped shut with the force of a mouse trap. Many an unwary child bore the scars of such encounters.

Our writing utensil of choice was the Ticonderoga # 2 lead pencil. No doubt Moses employed the same instrument while inscribing the Ten Commandments. We used the pencils until they were one inch nubs that became lost with the turn of a pencil sharpener.

Discriminating students only used Blue Horse notebook paper. We saved the Blue Horse labels and dreamed of exchanging the accumulated points for neat rewards. Looking back, I do not recall ever actually redeeming a prize with the coveted labels. Nevertheless, they formed the stuff of many a school daydream.

Each year we bought plastic rulers marked off in fractions of an inch. This was long before the metric system had been invented. A zippered pencil container snapped into a notebook. We filled it with pink erasers the size of Matchbox cars. On one memorable occasion, I also got a miniature stapler complete with a box of micro-staples. I immediately mutilated a fingertip with the device.

Other supply list standards included a compass and protractor. I had served a tour of duty in the Cub Scouts and could not understand the need for the former. Knowing the direction of magnetic north seemed useless in a classroom setting. Only later did I discover that a compass was the pointy thing with a golf pencil that drew circles.

The school provided everything else deemed essential for our education. The most important items, however, never appeared on any supply list. My best teachers supplied me with a love of learning, thirst for knowledge, and belief in self. These dedicated educators invested their hearts and souls into their students; and the return on their investment proved to be invaluable.

Christa McAuliffe, the elementary school teacher who lost her life on the space shuttle Challenger, once said: “I touch the future—I teach.” At the beginning of a new school year, I am thankful for those men and women who are teaching a new generation of students in our classrooms. May God supply their every need.