The Noticer by Andy Andrews


If you’ve been fortunate enough to meet someone who always seems to distill a situation down to its core elements and offer a point of view that resonates with your soul, then you’ll probably recognize that someone in Andy Andrews’ novel The Noticer.

The Noticer is a heartwarming tale of an apparently ageless old man, Jones, whose visits to a small town help bring about positive changes in the lives of many. Although Jones highlights his gift for noticing things that others overlook, it is really his ability to offer alternative perspectives that helps lead people to wise choices.

I enjoyed the lifestyle-improvement tips woven into the storyline. In his first meeting with the main character Jones acknowledges that through our own bad choices and decisions we may find ourselves in difficult circumstances. It is through good choices that we can direct ourselves into better circumstances. Jones advises, “What we focus on increases.” Later, in an encounter with a couple considering divorce, the principles of Gary Chapman’s “Love Languages” are well exemplified.

Jones explains to a group of teens that wisdom is “the ability to see, into the future, the consequences of your choices in the present.” He offers the people he encounters a way to envision their future given the path they’re on and he paints an alternate future available through a shifted perspective.

The Noticer can easily be read in one or two sessions but the book is so filled with pearls of wisdom I’ve found myself drawn back to revisit key points. This story bears reading and re-reading. I have already found occasion to share anecdotes from the story and I hope to continue to spread these words of wisdom.

Sunday’s Study: Judges 13 – Samson’s Conception & Birth

In Judges 13, Manoah’s sterile wife (never named) encounters an angel of the Lord who foretells of the conception and birth of Samson. Other notable sterile-women-who-became-mothers-after-divine-intervention: Sarah, mother of Isaac; Rebekah, mother of Jacob; Hannah, mother of Samuel; Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.

The angel instructs Samson’s parents to raise him as a Nazirite: no alcohol, no unclean food and no haircuts. A Nazirite vow was most often temporary. It was exceptional for parents to commit their child to a lifetime as a Nazirite.

Samson was a member of the Dan tribe. He grew up wandering around the yet-unconquered land they inherited. During his visits to the tribe’s army camps, God stirred his heart and moved Samson along the path prepared for him. Although Samson began the journey of deliverance from the Philistines, the journey wasn’t completed until the time of David.

Do you feel a stirring in your heart? Are you allowing God to use you as He intends? Your role may be to start something without ever seeing it finished. Be faithful in seeking God’s will and be obedient – even if you don’t see results.

We may not know how our role fits in, for now…we’re all part of a much bigger story.

China – more of the 1st week

Sunday evening I left Austin, arriving at the factory (almost straight from the airport) Tuesday afternoon. Every day was filled from with meetings, conference calls, and build activities. I ate dinner in my room Tues, Wed & Thursday. I had a “traditional Chinese massage” Tuesday night and a foot massage Wednesday night. Both were worthy investments.

Friday evening, after another long day, my Program Manager took me to a China Mobile store to buy a local sim card for an old phone I brought with me. I ended up buying a local phone because my old phone was “locked” (long story not worth going into here). Finally I had the ability to communicate with folks locally – very helpful given the size of the factory and the fact that the Taipei teams are in separate rooms on opposite sides of the factory.

After making the phone purchase Molder & I stopped in a DVD store. These are stores of some notoriety because they are filled with “knock-off” copies of DVD’s. I didn’t buy any movies, but it certainly is an impressive sight to see the “wall of videos” in no apparent order. Of note, there was a local woman there who wanted to purchase a copy of “Drag Me to Hell”. At least I assume that’s why she kept breaking out of her mandarin to say “Drag Me to Hell.”


Next we went to a restaurant and joined 2 reps from an antenna supplier. The dinner tales are best told in person. I’ll just say that my companions were drinking both beer and wine (they’d ordered beer but maybe felt obliged to help me with the wine). I really can’t do dinner justice here, but here are some photos which might give a sense of the food and the company.

After getting back to the hotel, I finally had the “oil massage” I was anticipating Thursday. It was not at all what I expected. The listing had said “90 minutes” so I assumed they meant “90 minutes” (the other massages lasted as long as the time listed on the “menu”). Instead it was 60 minutes. When I asked afterward they said “Oh, we allow 30 minutes for your shower”. What? When they took me back for the massage they told me the girl would be there in a few minutes. When she came in she asked something about a shower but when I asked for clarification she said effectively “nevermind.” After each massage I was served tea and hustled out of there so I’m not sure when I was supposed to take a 30 minute shower. The trouble with complaining is everyone’s English seemed to get worse when I tried to get clarification afterward.

As a side story about the tea served after the massage… After my traditional Chinese massage they served ginger tea. I fell in love with ginger tea last year – it’s very soothing for the stomach. After the oil massage I asked if the tea was ginger tea and she said “Oh, you want ginger tea?!?” and she ran off with the tea she’d brought me. She came back with ginger tea. Typically the tea has an hour to cool off (they bring the tea at the start of the massage) so the ginger tea was too hot to drink. When I mentioned that I was hustled out of there after the massage, what I’m referring to is to this: after a few minutes of waiting for the tea to cool off (and I will admit that the charming girl graciously continued to massage my shoulders during these few minutes) she asked if should could pour out the remainder of my water in the water bottle I’d brought with me. After I nodded my assent she poured out the water and poured the too-hot-to-drink tea into the water bottle. So I could leave. Right now, thank you. “Hustled out,” wouldn’t you say?

But if I overlook the feeling that I was ripped off because my 90 minute massage was a 60 minute massage, it was a nice treat. I did have to suspend modesty but I won’t bother you with the sordid details. It was an experience and that’s what I’m all about on these Asian adventures.

The journey began: China-bound

I left for China on September 8th. After a 28hour flight schedule (including layovers in LA and Taipei) I arrived in Shanghai.

Here’s the beer bar in the Taipei airport where I relaxed from ~6am to 8am. I met a lovely couple from Canada and we compared tech notes – specifically the fact that in order to access Facebook and Twitter, you had to set up a VPN. “ItsHidden” worked for me at the Taipei airport, although I had mixed results once I was in China.

Here’s the immigration line in Shanghai. There was a “no photos” sign that I ignored (I’m a bit of a rebel) because I felt compelled to capture the moment. For most Americans, it’s a bit unusual to have to get in the line for “Foreigners”. Through an odd twist of fate I was one of the last passengers on my flight to get through the process. I wish I’d snapped an image of my driver. Seeing someone holding a sign with your name on it is immensely reassuring after such a long journey.

And finally, here’s the view from my room at the Swissotel in Kunshan(notice – I just missed a beer festival!). I checked into the hotel at about 1:30 then went straight to the factory. Have I mentioned that the reason for this trip was the first prototype build for the product I’m responsible for? There’s nothing like spending 33 hours in the same clothes then showing up for work. Fortunately, the factory is not a fashion mecca.

After putting in about four hours covering the build in-progress, I retired to my room for some much needed zzzzzz’s. And so ended Day 1 in China.

I’m back! Starting with a story about "Messages"

I had a delightful trip to China. Delightful in that work was productive, play was adventuresome and there were no incidents of barfing. Out of about 8 or so trips to Asia (China, Taiwan and Malaysia) this is only the 2nd time I’ve avoided getting sick during the trip. The consequence is apparently going to be a painful bout of jet-lag.

I plan to post a series of tales, with photos. My family received regular e-mails from me, telling of my adventures but without photos. My access to the internet during my stay was flaky at best – I was only occasionally able to access facebook or Twitter (and even then I randomly lost my connection).

I’m starting with a post that ties into the theme of a Blog Carnival, hosted by a friend. Then I’ll pick up from the beginning and tell the tales in ~chronological order.

Messages

As a preamble to this story I should explain an interesting traffic phenomenon of the Orient. There are some laws that are strictly followed and some are strictly disregarded. Very few drivers travel in excess of the posted limit. Very few drivers pay any attention to the stripes painted on the roads. This latter behavior is evident in the propensity to make 4 lanes out of 3, and to use oncoming lanes for passing. Or left turns. Really, just whatever is convenient. Since the roads are shared with bicycles, skooters and pedestrians, I’m always amazed that there are not very many accidents here – these guys are serious defensive drivers. But I digress.

I mention the disregard for lanes because this behavior came into play during one of my morning swims. The Swiss Hotel (actually the “Swissotel“) has a 3 lane pool with no lane dividers – just the 3 stripes on the pool bottom. When I arrived one morning to find a man in the first lane and another man in the 3rd lane, each of them swimming the breast stroke, I was not thrilled but I figured if I stuck to freestyle and backstroke I’d be okay.

About 15 minutes into my swim a 4th swimmer joined us. Although she was a petite little thing, she was also swimming breaststroke – apparently a local favorite. In true Asian fashion she simply joined us, forcing a 4th lane where there should be 3. After getting almost clipped by a kick from a passing swimmer, I gave up.

I was remorseful until I got to my room and realized I was off in calculating the timing of my morning routine! So, in the end I was delighted to have been “forced out” of the pool. I was only a few minutes late for breakfast.

Everything happens for a reason. More importantly, we should listen for messages in any given situation. There may not be a clear connection here, but that is in the fault of the storyteller. In the moment, I felt a clear message to wrap up my swim. When I came to appreciate the benefit of that message, I had no doubt but to assign credit to God for His gracious intervention. Had I continued swimming I would have undoubtedly inconvenienced others.

How often do we ignore the messages that are sent our way? It’s so easy in our busy, noisy lives to focus on the hustle and bustle and ignore the quiet whispers that might nudge us one way or another. One of the things I enjoyed about being disconnected for 2 weeks (in a part of the world where English was limited or non-existent), was the forced period of solitude and introspection. Even in a crowd, I was alone. I could speak, but I couldn’t make myself understood. I could hear, but I couldn’t understand. I was forced to listen with my whole self.

God, I pray that my heart remains uncalloused; that my eyes may see and my ears may hear as You guide me on Your path. No matter where I go, may I remain connected to You. (Matthew 13:1-23)

I’m on my way…to China

Work’s been busy, no doubt. Conference calls in the morning and at night. And while I sleep? The team in Taipei is busy working, sending e-mail, filling my inbox. It’s so easy to start every day with 30 minutes of “inbox clean-up”. But I’ve been resisting the temptation and spending my early hours either in prayer or in pursuit of other challenges.

In the grand scheme of things, work is taking up way too much of my time. Case in point – I’m sitting in the LA airport killing time during a 6-hour layover on my way to China for the first proto-type build of the product I’m responsible for. I’m about 18 hours away from hitting the ground in Shanghai. From there I’ll go to the factory for a meeting. Then to my hotel to collapse. I’m just guessing on that last agenda item.

I dream of what’s next. What’s next?