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My Mug Collection

wandmugblue.jpg My wife has her hundreds of gorgeous teapots all over the house, her Precious Moments assemblage, her extensive sets of china dinnerware and her Thomas Kincaid pieces. Then there’s my stuff. The only two things that rate high enough to be displayed close to her collections include my grandfather’s railroad watch, and a two hundred dollar pen that I bought on the Monterey Peninsula in California . (Once the gold plating started to wear off, I archived it. You never trash a pen you actually paid for, let alone one that cost that much!)

Setting aside my 2,500 volume library (that, my friend, is totally work-related), you have to come down a few notches on the collectors’ scale to assess the few trinkets I keep. Still, of all my treasures, I love my collection of coffee mugs that lines a cheap wooden case mounted on our basement wall the most. These mugs, from the Hershey Bar to the Flag of Greece, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police piece to the NASA Space Center mug from Houston , hale from places I’ve been fortunate enough to go. Whenever I visit someplace in the world, it’s always an added pleasure to shop for a mug that is unique, a beautiful piece of art, or even something that just carries the signature of the locale. Sometimes I get all three in one, as in my favorite, an exquisitely painted Fife and Drum Corps mug, from Colonial Williamsburg. (Then again, I really like my man-sized mug from Pebble Beach Golf Links!) My mugs only get used for hot liquids on very special occasions. Most of the time they sit on the shelf, collecting dust and meeting the needs of the soul rather than those of the stomach. One glance takes me to exotic places, warm people and great experiences. It’s amazing how a piece of painted porcelain can instantaneously become a touchstone to awaken dormant memories.

This collection represents a larger principle, a lesson for the character. They ensure that I never travel through life and return empty-handed, as if all the things I saw, and heard, and felt and that happened to me were nothing. I feel a deep-down obligation to take something away from every experience God grants me. Whenever I visit memorable places, meet marvelous people, or engage in truly meaningful experiences, something in me must register the impact. To shrug my shoulders and say, “No big deal,” or refuse to be affected by the things that happen to me would put my shallowness and selfishness on display.

I have been extraordinarily blessed to meet and know great men of God in my travels. Some, like Oliver Fauss, Oscar Vouga, R. G. Cook, L. J. Roshon, W. R. Starr, M. M. Hudson, George Chambers, George Glass and my father, Victor L. Jordan have gone on to their reward. Each one left an indelible mark on my life. When I think of patience, strength, wisdom, love of doctrine, gentleness and integrity, their faces and names occupy permanent perches in my memory banks. Now, I am privileged to serve on boards and committees with exceptional men of God. They exude spiritual values which continue to affect me. When I wrestle with a problem, I am likely to pick up the phone and seek their advice. Someday, I will reverently display their condensed wisdom on the walls of my life.

All of us travel across the varied terrains of our individual callings. Sometimes, we remember the tough stretches of the road the most. No one likes valleys, but all of us go through them. What we learn from them and what we take home from the trip is the important question. The deep valleys of life, however painful, forge invaluable memories that we ought to keep close at hand. We must come away from such trials tightly gripping our mementos of prayer experiences, freshly gained self-insight, and a renewed vision of God. Intense suffering instills qualities within our souls that can be acquired no other way.

But, for every valley, a mountaintop has made up the difference. It’s easy to come away from great times and successful ventures with heady feelings and a sense of fulfillment. It is far better, however, to be humbled by our successes than to be exalted by them. Pride, arrogance and an inordinate sense of self-sufficiency would be ugly blights in my display. Gratitude and humility fit the collection much better.

The incremental passage of time makes history only in the chronological sense. In reality, experiences are timeless—-they will always stay with you. You may not recognize it, but things that have happened to you will inevitably wind up displayed prominently somewhere in your identity, your value system and your soul. You alone are the one who decides what stays and what goes. It all depends on what you take home with you.

C. Neil Strait says, “That man who deposits experiences carefully in his memory will draw rich returns from his life. A flashback from such a past will be rewarding not remorseful. The memory can store the good things from experiences and draw dividends from them throughout life. Or, it can choose to store the horrible experiences and have only a dismal past to recall.”

Don’t take everything home. I recall some hideous masks that looked like witchdoctor’s paraphernalia that I bought in the Philippines . They were carved out of some exotic wood, beautifully stained, and I could picture them hanging on my office wall. That’s when my wife spoke up. No way. To this day, I can’t remember if I gave them away or stuck them in a trash receptacle at the airport, but I do recall that they never made the flight back. Don’t be afraid to leave some experiences in the graveyard of bad days. They would only downgrade the value of the good things you need to display.

Where have you been, lately? What intriguing person have you met? What excruciating experience have you endured? What lesson have you learned? What will you take home with you? It’s up to you.

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