…that I was getting into my car, but…

…as it turned out, I wasn’t.  Full disclosure here – I did get into a car – a car that was the same make, model and color of my car, even the interior colors were the same, and when I put the key in, you guessed it – it started.  Weird, huh?

Here’s the story:  I went into a store near my house in Keller, got what I needed and headed back out, probably 5 minutes after I had parked, boom-boom in and out.  I had parked almost right in front of the store in one of their ‘designated’ spaces.  I walked out, hit the ‘unlock’ thingy on the key fob, I heard that familiar ‘chirp’, I opened the door and got in.  I thought at first that something was off, but without thinking too much I put the key in the ignition, turned it and started the engine.  Then I began to notice that things around me seemed really odd – there was a can of some kind of Monster-type drink in the console, a lanyard with odd stuff attached was hanging from the rear-view mirror, the smell was odd (not bad, but not ‘my’ smell).  I probably sat there a full minute, trying to figure out what had happened, it was a really odd feeling! Maybe I had accidentally slipped into some alternate universe or something.  Maybe I’d been in the store and stepped into a worm-hole of some kind and this was what my car would look like in a year or so.  It was weird!

After about a minute or so, I realized that I was not where I was supposed to be.  Even though it was somewhat familiar and it was comfortable, still, it wasn’t right.

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation, although hopefully not as weird as mine today.  Maybe you went to work today and things were familiar, comfortable, but in your gut, you knew it wasn’t right, that this wasn’t where you were supposed to be.  Maybe it wasn’t work, but a situation, a relationship, a stage of life, an attitude you’ve adopted, a direction you found yourself heading, it could be a million things – but suddenly(or slowly) you realize you’re in the wrong place.   It’s happened to me, it’s probably happened to us all in one way or another.  So what do you do?

In my situation today, I got out of that car as fast as any human can exit a car!  Then I began to look around for the police and waited to hear the sirens begin any second! When neither of those things came to pass, I began to look around for the owner of the car – there was no one around.  Then, I began to look for my car and my thought was – “if my key worked in their car, then their key should work in mine, and my car is a lot cleaner and looks less used than this one – I hope it’s still here!” It was.

I left in a hurry, I’m sure you understand.

So here’s the question – when we realize we’re not where we’re supposed to be: mentally, spiritually, psychologically, physically, emotionally, etc., why don’t we GET OUT OF THERE AS QUICKLY AS WE CAN??!!

I was thinking… and I have a couple of theories, but I’d love to hear yours.

Tracy

…about hoping I didn’t sound dumb!

This past Monday evening, the 16th of September, I was the featured guest on the Dr. Tracey Brown show.  (You can catch a recording at http://www.drtraceybrown.com)

Dr. Brown is a fascinating and very accomplished professional in the fields of both education and self-empowerment, and lots of other things as well.  She invited me to be a guest on the show to talk about nonprofits and some of the challenges they face. By definition, I suppose I am a ‘subject matter expert’, but truthfully – it’s taken a long time for me to feel like an expert.  I’ve been working with nonprofits and in the fundraising field for pretty much all of my adult life.  From writing unique and challenging budgets for Youth Ministry in the early 80’s to consulting, and designing, and conducting countless capital fundraising campaigns for Churches and Nonprofits across the US, and in Africa and Central America, I guess I’ve earned the rank.  Plus, in 2011 I was certified as an “Expert Witness” in the area of Church Stewardship and Giving by the District Court of Los Angeles County, CA.  So, maybe I qualify…

At any rate, since that’s how Dr. Tracey promoted my episode of her show, I was hoping that when the actual taping aired… I wouldn’t embarrass myself or anyone else.  Guess what? I don’t think I did! It turned out pretty good!

As mentioned before, you can find the show at http://www.drtraceybrown.com, take a look and let me know what you think.

Tracy

…about motivation, comfort, and courage.

ARmedschool

At first glance, you might think that the picture to the right of this paragraph is of a pretty young lady taking a selfie in the mirror of the restroom.  When you look closer, however, you’ll notice the time-stamp – 4:02AM!  At the bottom of the photo you’ll learn that she’s at the San Antonio Medical Center, and that she’s wearing scrubs.  Pay close attention to the caption – “24 hours down, 2 more to go.”

My daughter is a 3rd year Med School student and this photo was taken during one of her training shifts in the Organ Transplant Center.  In case you were wondering …Med School is hard, VERY hard.  Med School is demanding, VERY demanding. Med School pushes students to the very limits of their endurance (and sanity).  This 26 hour shift is the norm, not the exception.  This young lady is a BEAST and a BEAUTY!

I’m not sure I can explain exactly what motivates her to continue to strive toward her goal of becoming a Doctor(and she will be an amazing Doctor, probably the best ever).  Author Brene Brown says “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”  This young woman chooses courage every day and it’s not easy, she chooses to manufacture motivation when the supply runs short, she chooses to pursue her goals and will not be deterred.

That’s all well and good, but what’s the point? you may ask…

Well it’s simple, I’m afraid that I, and maybe most of us, choose ‘comfort’ far too often and we’re mostly motivated by the path of least resistance!  HOW TRAGIC! Do you remember the British alt rock group Chumbawamba? The lyrics from their ‘one-hit’ are “I get knocked down, but I get up again, I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down” (feel free to sing along!)  We all get knocked down, life is tough, bad things happen, no surprise there.  What worries me is that I see so many people with the attitude that says basically “I get knocked down … and really it’s not so bad down here, it’s not great but maybe I’ll just lay here for a bit and get comfortable”.  We often choose comfort over courage, I do, you do, we all do, don’t deny it.

I was thinking about what today might look like if I choose courage instead of comfort?  I wonder what would happen if I did the same tomorrow? How would my life change if maybe I strung 3-4 days of choosing courage together?

What about you?  Do you choose comfort over courage?  If so, what’s your motivation? What are you hoping to accomplish by choosing comfort?  How’s is going to benefit you, your family, your profession, and ultimately the world?

Tracy

 

…about a day 18 years ago.

9/11…I remember, in fact, I remember those events almost constantly, and certainly every time I board an airplane, which happens about 10 times a month on average. When my flight from Chicago to Sacramento was grounded that morning after the first plane struck the tower, we began to learn what was happening as we watched the TV monitors in the St. Louis airport. I remember the shock, the disbelief, the fear, the anger, the uncertainty, the almost feral attitude that gripped everyone around me as many literally began to panic. I remember heading against the crowd rushing to get out of the airport to get to a bank of pay phones so that I could call home. In light of all that I remember about that day, what I remember most was the impromptu prayer meetings myself and other stranded travelers held in the lobby of the Hotel. At the end of the day, there are a few things that are really true: none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, bad things happen to good people, we are stronger together, people are amazingly resilient and resourceful and we take care of each other when the need arises, and most importantly – faith in God can and will sustain us through anything and everything. Today is a gift, let’s unwrap it and enjoy it in honor of those men and women we lost 18 years ago on this day.

Tracy

…about Tears and Chapters (of life)

Tears are a funny thing, sometimes they are caused by sadness, sometimes joy, sometimes pain, sometimes healing, sometimes you can sense they’re coming a long way off, and sometimes they really sneak up on you.  Sometimes you fight them, sometimes you let them flow.  Sometimes they’re appropriate, sometimes they make others uncomfortable.  I’m reminded of what a friend said as I held my first born about 5 seconds after he came into the world, this friend was a doctor and was in the delivery room, they handed Jordan to me and my friend said “Tracy, your eyes are leaking”. Sometimes tears come and you don’t even realize they’re there unless someone points them out.

This past weekend I had the incredible privilege of re-visiting a early Chapter of my life – my time at First Baptist Church of Whitehouse, TX, where I served as Youth Minister from 1982-86.  It was the 150th Birthday celebration for the Church and lots of former members and Staff were there to celebrate and reminisce.  My time at FBC-Whitehouse was a wonderful time and many of the relationships built during those years have stood the test of time and distance.  As great as my time there was for the Youth Ministry and personal relationships, looking back – I know those years were very trying and stressful for the Church as a whole due to issues with other Staff members.  It is clear to me now just how much those wonderful people protected and insulated me from all the ‘stuff’ that was going on all around me.  I operated on good advice from a dear friend, Bryant Langford, who told me early on to “keep your head down, love the kids, you’ll  be fine.”

So, while sitting in the Worship service yesterday, sure enough – tears came.  I looked over to my right to the pew where Bryant used to sit, and tears came.  I looked at the choir loft, (where I led youth choir even though I couldn’t read a note of music, go figure…) and tears came.  I saw Donna Manasco singing in the Choir and I thought of her husband Bob who passed away a few years ago, and I cried.  I looked to my left at the ‘youth section’ in the auditorium, where sometimes there would be nearly 100 students on a Sunday morning, more tears.  I began to think of all the young men and women that God (and their parents) had trusted to me, in my mind I tried to picture them as they were 30+ years ago, I thought about youth camps, ski trips, Bible studies, scavenger hunts, pizza, burgers, and all the stuff we did together and guess what – I cried.

I think I cried most when my old friend Donny shared about his time on Staff at FBC-Whitehouse, about how wonderful it was, and how tragic when he lost his young son Timothy there.  I cried when I thought about that night when Timothy was playing with my young son Jordan while some of us were working in the Auditorium.  When we left we asked to take Timothy with us to the movie, but he stayed with his Dad, and a short time later, an accident took his life.  Donny talked briefly about that incredibly difficult Chapter in their life, and he thanked God and the Church for their love and support.

Chapters, the dictionary defines a chapter as “a period of time or an episode in a person’s life”, maybe the whole point of this rambling remembrance is to remind myself and anyone reading that all of the Chapters of our lives are important.  Some are more fun to think about than others, but woven together they create a beautiful tapestry of our lives.  Each thread contributes to the overall strength and beauty of the fabric, and sometimes as we look back at some of those Chapters they look dull and lifeless, until the tears we shed as we remember bring back the colors.

If you know me, you know I’m not one to dwell on the past.  As that great theologian Jimmy Buffet said “there’s just too much to see waiting in front of me that I know I just can’t go wrong, with these changes…”

Like I said – I was thinking, and I’ve decided that looking back from time to time makes the journey ahead much, much better.

What do you think?

Tracy

about choosing motivation.

What motivates you?  Is it money? recognition? attainable goals? competition? the challenge? pride? or what?

Full disclosure here:  I haven’t written a blog post for several months (hopefully you noticed…), and the truth of the matter – I just haven’t been motivated!  

My failures in communicating not withstanding, I have been thinking, at least occasionally.  And recently, my thoughts have centered around the subject of motivation.  I shared an article on LinkedIn the other day that pointed out that while almost all of those working in the fundraising/development sector were mostly satisfied with their work – over half said they’d likely be looking for new positions or leaving the field entirely in the next 24 months! I guess what they were really saying was “I’m happy, but not THAT happy.”  Made me wonder – what is the basic motivation for folks in the fundraising/development sector? Let’s be honest here, although salaries for Fundraising Professionals have been on the rise, they’re not on par with the ‘for-profit’ world, but that’s not surprising, and after all, anyone going into the nonprofit sector should be aware of that reality up front, and consequently – not whine about it afterwards.

I think for many (maybe most), the main motivation is seeing the impact of the work of the Organization they serve.  And most all nonprofits do incredible work! Whether it’s feeding the hungry, providing safe drinking water, shelter for the homeless, rescuing the young and old from human trafficking, preventing suicide, and any number of other incredibly worthy causes – non profits make our world a better place and that’s a powerful motivator! So why would people want to leave?

To put it bluntly – unrealistic expectations. Sometimes from the Board, sometimes from Senior Leadership, and often from ourselves, unrealistic expectations are a motivation killer!

So what do we do? I’ve got some ideas, after all, like I said earlier, I’ve been thinking, stay tuned.

Tracy

…about the next 5 minutes.

@tom_peters says:  EXCELLENCE  =  SHORT-TERMISM!

EXCELLENCE is not a “long-term” “aspiration”.

EXCELLENCE is the ultimate short-term strategy.

EXCELLENCE is … THE NEXT 5 MINUTES.*

(*or not.)

Since the early 80’s I’ve read every thing Tom Peters has published, beginning with In Search of Excellence.  Business/management books aren’t required reading for Youth Ministers these days, and they certainly weren’t way back then. Still, I was drawn to those type of concepts and it paid off.  Maybe because I lacked the ‘formal’ education and seminary training that just about all of my colleagues were armed with, I relied, and thrived on my self-education, both theological and practical.

Now, almost 40 years later, my mindset hasn’t changed (I don’t think), but my ability to launch, to take-off, to rev up and get started, has…shall we say – slowed, somewhat. In those by-gone days, I was constantly starting new projects and programs, some failed, others were wildly successful and copied by my peers.  I don’t find myself generating new ideas as often as in days past, and thankfully – that concerns me. I realize that I still want to do new things, launch new projects, go to ‘undiscovered country’, and risk failure, but recently there’s not been much of that happening.

Tom’s latest book – The Excellence Dividend, is helping me to get that mojo back!  Reminding me that THE NEXT 5 MINUTES are important! Very important!

My fabulous and incredibly intelligent wife asked me the other day – “What are we going to do next?” My answer – “I’m not sure”. But I’ve thought about that question virtually every day since. I think it’s one of the most powerful questions I’ve ever been asked, and I’m making a list, a mental list at this point, but pretty soon I’ll commit some of the items to paper, and beyond.

If you’re still reading, I’ll ask you – “What are you going to do next?” Think long and hard before you answer, and then let me know. I’d love to have the opportunity to encourage you, and maybe you could do the same for me.

Tracy

…about applying for the job of Chief Grilling Officer with Reynolds Wrap.

So I did. Sounds like a sweet gig. I think I’ll probably get it. Here’s my request for employment:

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Reynolds,

First of all, let me thank you and congratulate you for what you’ve done with aluminum foil over the years. Truthfully, I didn’t know what aluminum foil was for many years, in our house the only moniker ever used was “Reynolds Wrap”. My mother would never even consider using one of those off-brand foils, consequently, neither do I! I’m really liking the “PITMASTER’S CHOICE”, it’s foil perfection, in my opinion, and perfect for my meat smoking dream dishes.

WARNING: It’s gonna take me a few more than 100 words(but less than 500) to tell you why I’m the perfect candidate for the position of Chief Grilling Officer with your fine Organization, but trust me, I’ll use the same literary gifts in describing the Grilling and BBQ adventures that await us across this wonderful land.

First of all, I’m a ‘meat’ guy. My 82yr old Dad is a butcher, and I started cutting meat when I was about 8yrs old. I grew up behind an old-fashioned service meat counter. I won awards in High School on the Meat Judging Team. I can identify any cut of meat you put in front of me, some with my eyes closed and only feeling the bone. I know meat, which, by the way, is the most critical component of good grilling and BBQ (the Reynolds Wrap is a close second).

Secondly, I grew up in Texas. I have eaten meat grilled over every kind of wood you can imagine – Mesquite, Hickory, Apple, Pecan, you name it! I’ve also been privileged to dine at probably every renowned BBQ joint in the State of Texas and lots of others around the country as well (my job requires significant travel, and I like grilled meat).

Third, I have the unique ability to describe experiences in a way that people find really entertaining. I’m thinking as the CGO of Reynolds Wrap, it might be fun to take a “play by play” approach in describing how a piece of meat goes from hoof to grill to table.

And lastly, let’s be honest, I need the money. Wife says my grilling habit has gotten out of hand, and maybe I should stop spending our retirement savings trying new smoking recipes and then giving the meat away to the neighbors. She says if I can land this gig, I don’t have to go to Smoker’s Anonymous. So please, help a brother out, please!

Seriously, I’m your guy. Delete the rest of the entries, your job is done, I’m waiting for your call, but let it ring a few times, I may be outside at the grill.

Tracy S. Ebarb (325)320-1377  tsebarb@gmail.com

Yeah, pretty sure I’ve got this think Reynolds Wrapped up!  And by the way, it’s a real job. I’ve already gotten an initial response from the Reynolds Wrap people, they said they’d be in touch. Pretty sure I’m their guy…

…about something I wrote a few years ago.

I was driving this past Sunday from Muskogee, OK back home to Keller. It’s been pretty dry around here for the last few months so the fact that I was driving through a very heavy thunderstorm was really kind of nice, I didn’t mind at all. I was hoping to guide the storm to north Texas, sadly, I failed in that attempt. On one stretch of the road, north of McAlester, across the bridges on Lake Eufaula, the highway was reduced to one lane, bordered by those huge concrete barriers on each side(I don’t like those things at all). I was driving about 25-30mph and could barely see 10′ in front of the car when I noticed what appeared to be some very faint flashing orange lights. As I slowed down I was just barely able to read the message on the digital sign that was flashing these words – “Maintain Control” (or at least that’s the part I could make out).  Now in that situation – driving rain, wet roadway, strong winds, thunder and lightning all around – I thought “Yeah, good idea, I’ll do my best”. Simultaneously, I thought “I really hope everyone else on the road does the same.”

The truth is – most of us love to be in control, but maintaining control in many areas of our lives is like trying to catch a greased pig, not easy at all. As I drove along, ‘maintaining control’ as best I could, I remembered the closing thoughts of a message I delivered several years ago at Union Presbyterian Church in Brownwood about trusting God. Took a little while to dig up the file today, but thankfully, I found it. It spoke to me again, maybe you can find some assurance in it as well.

“I’m in control, you are not going to understand what I’m up to a lot of the time, sorry, that’s just the way it is. If you belong to Me and choose to follow me, you’re going to be frustrated with Me on a regular basis, but remember – I’m in control, and I love you plenty enough to overlook your frustration. I understand that you’re going to blame Me and curse me when you don’t get your way sometimes, I can handle it, but do not run away from me, stay close, even when you’re mad, there are much worse things out there than your frustration with Me, trust Me on this. We are going to win, make no mistake, that is going to happen. In the meantime, have some fun, celebrate the good things that happen, even the little ones, for now you’re not living in the place I’ve designed for you, you all messed that up long ago, so hard times and pain are going to occur, get used to it. But again, let me remind you – I AM IN CONTROL.” – God

P.S. I was also reminded that I really should be writing this blog more often than I have lately. I’ll do better.

Tracy

 

…about Junior High Track Meets.

I’ve had the privilege of working High School and Junior High Track Meets since about 1977, over 40 years! I’ve worked meets all over East Texas – Edgewood, Canton, Van, Whitehouse, Quitman, Tyler-Lee, Mt. Pleasant, Pittsburg, Daingerfield, Paris and New London. In Central Texas at Early, Brownwood, Bangs, Brady, Ballinger, Comanche and maybe a couple of other places. I’ve timed races a lot, worked every field event at least a few times, and set plenty of hurdles. A couple of times I’ve helped rebuild tents that were destroyed when thunderstorms blew through!

In the Field Events, probably half of the meets I’ve worked I’ve run off the Pole Vault, which is probably my favorite, and I’ve only done the Triple Jump one or two times. This past Monday I had the privilege of working the Long Jump at the Lindsay, TX Junior High Meet. I think there were 9 schools represented, all 2A, smaller schools, and it was the first meet of the year that these kids had done field events.

The event went well, the kids experienced what it was like to Long Jump into a 30mph north wind (standard for March Track meets), there was plenty of pride and good feelings when a jump went well, along with an appropriate amount of disappointment. Several kids learned what it meant to ‘scratch’, a new concept to many of them.

You know how it is in Junior High – just about every kid runs track!  In Junior High, there’s no shortage of athletes! At least that’s how it is in smaller schools, I hope it still holds true for larger schools as well. At any rate, in most Junior High meets, the rule of having no more than 3 entrants/school/event is kind of over-looked – everybody gets a shot! That’s probably no more evident than in the Long Jump, we had plenty of jumpers, many of them first timers – it was great!

I am a huge fan of Coaches, and I believe they are incredibly important in the formation of the character of students. Junior High Coaches are often some of the best, most kind-hearted, patient and compassionate coaches to be found. One of the things that makes working Junior High meets so great is the opportunity to watch these Coaches, they are incredible.

I hear and see a lot from folks in the teaching profession about how over-worked and underpaid they are. (Truthfully, I don’t know of many folks, regardless of profession, that wouldn’t love to have a lighter workload and more pay, I think it’s universal…)

But I don’t hear that from Coaches.  From what I have observed, I think these men and women would do what they do for less, if need be. One Coach told me years ago that complaining about his salary made about as much sense as complaining about getting wet when you turn on the shower – if you’re surprised, you’re just dumb. He said he knew the pay scale when he took the job, he knew the hours, he knew the demands, and he wanted to do it anyway, because he knew about the potential rewards as well.

So hear’s to the Coaches out there, especially the Track Coaches who will roast and freeze (sometimes on the same day) this Spring. Who will explain the finer points of the execution of the triple-jump over and over again, only to have the student scratch on all three attempts. Who will yell and cheer and congratulate and console virtually every student in her/his charge. Who will drive busses, eat cold sandwiches (if anything at all), risk skin cancer, run roughshod over the raging hormones of teenagers, get home late at night and then go to bed with a smile on their faces.  If no one else tells you, I will – you are appreciated, you are admired, you are very, very important! Thank you!

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