The Right Directions, Please!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

When it comes to finding directions, I hate to admit, I am clueless.  Sunday, September 16th, my dad, sister and I headed to ISU to play in CyChess L.  But which ISU?

I printed a campus map of ISU and ended up with this:

"Bethany, are you sure this is what you want?"  my brother wondered aloud.  No!  The right directions, please! I wanted to get a campus map for Iowa State University.  Unfortunately, the incorrigible computer which has since met its well-deserved fate refused to print the Iowa State University campus map, so we headed to the chess tournament with only general directions to the campus in Ames.  Where, oh where, could the Molecular Biology Building be? we wondered as we pulled up in front of the Memorial Union.  My sister and I hopped out of the van and asked a couple clerks in the building.  They showed us a map, and soon we were happily parked at the Molecular Biology Building.  

In spite of all our troubles, and the fact we left home 30 minutes later than we had hoped, we were the first chess players to arrive after the tournament director, Roger Gotschall.  Roger mentioned a skittles room upstairs, so we made ourselves at home and toured the hallways of all 5 floors.  We found snack machines and various places for sitting down and taking it easy.  We sat down in front of some windows on the top floor and watched the parking lot as other chess players walked in.  I was surprised to see some chess players I didn't recognize, and while we waited for the pairings for the first round we had some interesting conversations.

The first round, I played Milind Jetty.

I glanced at my clock and realized I was under 5 minutes, so I set aside my notation sheet, lost my d-pawn, and just barely managed to keep a draw in the endgame with a king and bishop against his king, knight, and a pawn. 

 I'm not sure if the draw was legitimate--unfortunately, I was playing without complete optical migraine surprised me half-way through the game.  I hadn't had one in years--since shortly after my parents and the mayor had prayed for me--, so I was shocked.  Needless to say, I started praying--and hurried to the snack machine to grab something "nutritious" to eat (as, I realized, the headache was the penalty for forgetting to eat my lunch!).  I came back with a package of Pop-tarts and a package of Mike and Ike (the Mike and Ike was an accident...I intended to get the much more wholesome Skittles, but somehow pressed the wrong number on the snack machine).

I downed the Pop-Tarts before the next round...and wondered how on earth I could face my next opponent, whoever he might be.  My next opponent was...Matt Kriegel!  Matt beat me soundly at the Class Championships, so I was a bit apprehensive.  Fortunately, my opponent chose the Sicilian Opening which I had played last round and know better than the back of my hand.  He lost a piece early in the game through a faulty tactic but played into a position that scared me (although I found out later it wasn't bad).  I, rather tired of the game, having regained complete eye-sight around move 24,  but still feeling not-the-best, quickly accepted a draw.  Another visit to the snack machine was in order, and Papa suggested I try an "energy drink."  I gave it a try, and after a few sips I was back into shape and feeling perfectly!!  Thank the Lord! 

Feeling perfectly also meant that I was itching to play bughouse!  Unfortunately though, Charity's game was taking forever to finish (it was the longest game), and I couldn't find enough people to get a game going.  I did get a few interesting conversations though with my always interesting fellow chess players.  Roger had a group picture taken to commemorate the 50th Cychess...Then, on to the 3rd round!

The final round, I played Steve Jacobs...whom I've seen at countless chess tournaments, but cannot remember ever playing before.  We had a very long and interesting game which ended guessed it, another draw!  I didn't lose a match the entire tournament! (don't bother to remind me I didn't win one either ;) ).

Finally, everyone got to sit back, relax, and watch the playoffs for the trophy--a 4 round blitz match-up between the top place finishers, Nathan Amundson and the Barefoot Chessplayer Dave Wolz.  The playoffs ended with 2 points each for Nate and Dave, so the match went into overtime...  After blitz game after blitz game, Dave finally took home the trophy.  It was an exciting match to watch!  Many thanks to Roger Gotschall for directing such a fun tournament!

We headed home, stopping at a McDonalds for supper on the way.  I ordered a Double-Cheeseburger plain and a strawberry milkshake...

Believe me, it was good...though I won't even pretend it was nutritious... 

I noticed a very old lady sitting alone in the restaurant with a Bible, concordance, and a couple notebooks, intently studying.  So, I stopped to say hello.  We started talking; she had an Arkansan accent, and I learned that she didn't have a home, was always travelling, and did nothing but study the Bible and seek the Lord.  Listening to her talk was amazing, she hardly said anything except for quoting Bible verses, and she told us how important it was to spend time with the Lord.  I could tell that God was with her because I could feel his presence when she spoke.  She reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.  Most people, like me, are always so busy "doing things"--good things--but we're busy all the time, and often don't make time for the most important One in our lives--Jesus.  This lady spent all her time like Mary, doing the most important thing--seeking the Lord.  

We need to make sure we make time for the One who gave us this fun and exciting life... Just think of how wonderful it is that God (imagine how busy He is!) makes time for us.  Read the road-map of life, the Bible.  And follow Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life.  If you do, no matter how bad you are at finding directions, you will be headed in the Right Direction.  Christ is our Eternal guide, and with Him we will never be lost.

Gone Hiking: This Land Is Mine!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This land is mine!  And yours too... Psalm 37:11 says, "The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." God is our Father, and the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).  Since we are His children, the earth is our inheritance.  The clip above is the theme from the movie Exodus, which I haven't seen for ages (and can't tell you if it's worth watching or not), but the song is beautiful.  

Hiking in the Iowa River
     We decided to take a little adventure and headed down to the Iowa River.  Because of the drought, the river is quite low.  This year we have walked down the river several times, but even when our intentions have been to find a good swimming hole, we have never found a place more than waist deep.  This time I had the vain hope of not getting my socks wet...  

     Our starting point was near the bridge in Steamboat Rock, Iowa, and for a short time I was successful at keeping water out of my boots...until we came to a spot where the river narrowed.  On one side were steep limestone cliffs and on the other side not much of a bank, just water.  I gave up, and soon water sloshed over the top of my rubber boots--up to my knees--and my socks were soaked!  

We continued down the river and the river bed broadened again, revealing many spots which should have been wet but now were dry (see photo above).  The day was nice and warm, and we eventually came to a chair someone had left on a sandbar--with a container of fishing worms.  Poor things!  Next time the fisherman returns, I think he will be serving baked worms to the fish.  

The evening gradually wore on.  Someone found a piece of old pottery which they speculated may have been made centuries ago by Native Americans.  Finally, we decided it was getting too dark--time to turn around and head home.  But return by the same route?  Not us!  We cut through the woods and up a  hill.  A few of us found an old deer trail which made the going much easier, but the more adventurous ones of us literally crawled up the steepest part.  


We reached the top hill, and someone happily remarked, "We made it!"  "To where?" someone replied.  Now that was the question!  At the top of the hill was a small prairie area and someone suggested, "Why don't we just camp out here?"  "We'd be dinner if we did that (dinner for the mosquitoes),"  I replied; we'd probably too swollen with mosquito bites by morning to walk out of there alive.  

So on we traveled.  We decided it would be a lot easier to walk through a corn field adjacent to the grass land than to cut through the woods, so we followed the rows of a corn field for quite a while until we came back to a hiking trail.  

The soil in the cornfield was sandy, so the corn looked very sad, hardly better than grass (sorry for the photo quality; it was very hard to get good photos in the dusk).    Farther from the edge of the woods, the corn was a little better and we did see some ears, but they were rather small in comparison to normal good Iowa corn.

The hiking trail was paved with asphalt, and so it was extremely hard to see any of us who were wearing dark-colored clothes--as a matter of fact, it was hard to see anything!  We did make it back to our van after a long hike down the trail.  And we were ready for our next adventure in two days!

Pine Lake

     This time, our goal was another family excursion around Lower Pine Lake.  We've hiked around both Lower and Upper Pine Lake several times, and once we did a double-feature: when we reached where the path forks to go around the upper or lower lakes, 2/3rds of our group were far ahead of  the others.  We chose the path around the lower lake...and when the others came to the fork in the road, they chose the fork around the upper lake.  A ways down the road around the lower lake, we sat down and waited for the others to catch up...and we waited...and waited...and waited!  Finally we decided to go back and look for them, so we retraced our trail to the beginning, then followed the other fork for a ways, but could never find them.  So we decided they must have turned around and started looking for us, so we followed our path all the way around lower Pine Lake and then sat on a dock and waited until, lo, and behold, they met us coming from around the Upper Lake!  We both had had quite the adventures but were we ever glad to see each other again!

      This time we hoped our trip would be less dramatic, without surprise "good-byes" and happy reunions.  

The lake was beautiful as always.

We passed by several other walkers and joggers, and then took a look at this tunnel from a parking lot on one side of the highway to the trail by the beach. 

There's a very nice picnic shelter near the beach, and we rested in that area for a while watching the vultures soar overhead.  Sometimes we see bald eagles or pelicans at the lake, but not today.

The path is paved and there were benches and picnic tables here and there along the trail for weary travelers, but we were full of energy, and not so weary... so we walked on. 

When we came to the dam which separates Upper Pine Lake from Lower Pine Lake we were surprised!

It's not supposed to be like that...

For the second leg of the trip (around the other side of the lake), the path is not as high-class, but much more exciting!

The younger ones of us jogged around curves, leaped over steps, and hid under bridges to try to make it especially exciting for the others...

Yes, this is what the underside of a bridge looks like... ;)

We made it back home in good time--no more hikes in the dark!

If you're looking for a great place to take a hike, I definitely recommend Pine Lake.  If you are less adventurous, take the route we took around the lower lake. If you are more adventurous, give the Upper Lake a try.  To walk around the Upper Lake, you will need to walk through woods without paths, fjord a stream (or grab a tree limb and swing yourself over the creek), visit a raccoon grave-yard, cut your way through brambles, and avoid sinking in a swamp (with clay-colored water which stains shoes and socks).   I know from experience that the route around the upper lake is not for the faint in heart.  Whichever route you choose, I guarantee you will have fun--if you survive!  

God created this beautiful land, and we should forever thank Him!

 This land is mine!  This land is yours!  Enjoy it to the fullest!

It Doesn't Take Much Muscle to Lift a Heart

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

“We are not made rich by what is in our pockets but by what is in our hearts.”

Success: Serving Others in Your Personal Life

One of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen is an old lady with hair as white as snow.  She lives at one of the nursing homes we visit.  She's overweight and in a wheelchair, but while we're singing she has a smile as wide as the sky; and when I give her a hug after the concert, her eyes tell me only one thing, "I love you!"  I don't know her name;  I only know her face, and the smile on that face and light in those eyes radiates enough happiness back to me to make all the hours of music practice worthwhile. 

Serving others or going out of your way to be kind to others is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.  Someone once said, "It doesn't take much muscle to lift a heart;"  all it might take is a smile or a kind word.  Even if you are feeling sad, dreary, insecure or uncomfortable, smiling and trying to make others feel happy, welcome, and at home will lighten your own day.  

A little bit of variation added to Walton's 10 keys to business success gives us our 10 points for this post:

  1. Commit to your friendships.  Be consistent.  If you say you will do something, do it--promptly!  Don't say you will do something that you can't do.  If you say you will be somewhere at a certain time,be there--not one second late!  Sometimes it is inevitable that you will be late or can't make it, in the rare case when that is so, try to leave a message for your friend.  We're all human, as I know all too painfully; sometimes we (I) do just fail completely--it feels terrible!! But if you've always been reliable, established good relationships with your friends/family/teammates, they will know you are someone they can trust, that you have no intentions of deserting them, and your failings were just honest mistakes.   Be someone that can be depended on.
  2.  Treat your family and friends like they are the most important people in the world (they are to you).  
  3. Motivate your friends!  Encourage them.  
  4. Communicate.  Let them know you think about them.  If there are difficulties in your relationships, tell them where the problem is (in a humble manner--acknowledging you might be wrong) and work through the problem together.  Apologize when you did something wrong.  
  5. Appreciate all the little things your family and friends do for you.  Be sure to thank them.  
  6. Celebrate your successes and find humor in your failures.  Have fun and show enthusiasm.
  7. Listen.  Figure out ways to make them talk and share their views.  Most people like to talk.  If you are a good listener, you will find out what is important to your friends and often will be able to expand your horizons with all sorts of interesting ideas.
  8. Exceed their expectations, go out of your way to find little ways to show them you care about them.  Serve them by doing little things for them that they don't expect you to do.  What you do might be an extremely small favor, and they may never notice or thank you...but do it anyway!
  9. Forgive.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Forgive and forget their mistakes.  Forgive yourself when you make mistakes.  Go on.
  10. Fortitude-- you need it.  You will find all sorts of difficult times in your life.  You may lose friends, have financial difficulties, or struggle with depression.  A preacher once said,  "If you don't have struggles, you're not alive."  We all have trials, temptations, failings, but Jesus loves us no matter how bad we feel, no matter how badly we fail.  He promised He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He will always be with us, so be strong and of a good courage!  Never give up!
An Eternal Reward
     Matthew 25:34 tells us:
"The King shall say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:  I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me:  I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto the, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
We can't expect others to always treat us fairly, live by the golden rule, or serve us.  If we were absurd enough to expect it, I'm afraid we would be awakened to the rude truth very quickly.   It's best to do our best to overlook the foibles of others and instead of dwelling on their (or our own) faults, be thankful for all the good things in life.  We are like mirrors; if we look at other's failings, we are ugly.  If we look at ourselves, we are empty.  But if we focus on the resplendent character, beauty, and holiness of Jesus, we reflect the light and our lives are beautiful.  

Be Thankful!

 I  thank God for all the wonderful people I've known who have taught me what kindness and caring for others is.  I thank God for the wonderful people who have shown me how much joy there is in serving--or even spreading a smile. 

 I thank Him for the neighbor who treated us to brownies the other day (or was it a year ago?!),  the Christian music groups who freely bless us with beautiful music, the cashier at Walmart who greets us with a friendly smile and asks how we're doing, the tournament directors who direct so many fun chess tournaments for no personal gain,  the friend who encourages me in the Lord and always reminds me to pray more and more, the service representatives on FICS who help so many people without being payed a penny, my sisters who make so many delicious meals, my brother who's always so kind,  my parents who took such loving care of me when I felt sick (and they've done countless other things for me), the friend who sent me a cheerful email yesterday morning,  that lady who smiles from her wheelchair, and the list goes on and on. 

 I'm so thankful for all of you! And no matter what the world says of your station in life, whether they class you as wealthy and a winner or as poor, useless, and a failure in life,  to me you are a shining example of success.

It's true, "We are not made rich by what is in our pockets, but by what is in our hearts."

"He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; 
and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."  --Matthew 23:11-12

The More You Give, The More You Get

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"The more you give, the more you get,"  Sam Walton remarked in his autobiography, Made in America.  It's true!  Jesus said, "Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."  That's good, practical advice for our everyday business, personal and social lives, as well as for our eternal lives.

Success: Serving in Business
Our first goal in business endeavors is usually selfish-- putting food on our table and clothes on our backs.  For real success, we need to expand our horizons: how can we serve our customers better and give them the products or services they need when they want them and in the way they want them?  How can we help our employees, teammates, or co-workers to be more successful working for and with us?  

Von Mises notes in Economic Planning that modern business "kings...don't rule at all, they serve."  The "King must stay in the good graces of his subjects, the consumers; he loses his 'kingdom' as soon as he is no longer in a position to give his customers better service and provide it at a lower cost than others with whom he must compete."  Sam Walton focused on exceeding his customers' expectations.  He also focused on what he called "servant leadership."  He listened to the lowliest associates because they were the ones who talked with the customers every day.  He treated his Walmart workers as a team.  In his book, he notes the 10 secrets to his success:

  1. Commit to your business
  2. Share your profits with all your associates and treat them as partners
  3. Motivate your partners
  4. Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners
  5. Appreciate everything your associates do for the business
  6. Celebrate your successes and find humor in your failures.  Have fun and show enthusiasm.
  7. Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to make them talk and share their views.
  8. Exceed your customers' expectations
  9. Control your expenses better than your competition
  10. Swim upstream.  Go the other way.  Ignore conventional wisdom. "If everybody else is doing it one way, there is a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction. But be prepared for a lot of folks to wave you down and tell you you are headed the wrong way. I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything else was: a town of less than 50,000 population cannot support a discount store for very long."
Today, the Walton family is one of the richest families in the world, with a worth of $93 billion.  How did they get their wealth?  Serving others!  They created jobs for countless people and (in my opinion) great stores for the rest of us to shop at for inexpensive food and other merchandise.  Sure, a lot of people told Sam Walton he was going to be a failure and his unconventional ideas wouldn't work, but he persisted.  He never gave up.  He knew he had a good idea, and his idea worked!

The key to his greatness was serving.

 Take a look at your business life.  Is there any way you can improve the lives of your customers or co-workers?  If so, it could be the key to your success, because the more you give, the more you get.

(Coming next: Success: Serving Others in Your Personal Life)