Remember it, but don’t live in it…

January 16, 2019

The past. For some the past is not just a time to be remembered, but also a time that they can’t seem to escape…a place that they chose to live in today. The inability to put the past in proper perspective and live in the present is a part of what we now call PTSD. The terms “shell-shocked” and “the fog of war” were used after WWI to describe that state offacing the wall 2 mind in which many soldier returned to civilian life. Whatever it is called, a major component of this condition is the inability to put the past behind and forge a new life ahead. You might occasionally encounter an ex-soldier with this condition wandering the streets. But, they might tell you that they are not wandering. They are “out on patrol”. They are living in the past.

For some who suffer from this condition, only professional help will be able to bring them into the here and now. For many it is enough to find a new mission, a new purpose, a new place to belong, a new “family”. A key factor in the inability to let go of the past for many soldiers may be that the friends they had in stressful combat situations became like family to them. These were people that they counted on to have their backs in modern soldierfirefights and to watch their backs on patrol. For many, younger soldiers, who were experiencing their first time away from their birth homes, these buddies became their family. When they return from these experiences in foreign lands and are released from active duty, many do not find any replacement for that feeling of mission or family, even if they return to their birth home. Some choose to live in the past, reliving their time with their buddies in combat, where they felt more comfortable, more “at home”.

Soldiers aren’t the only ones who suffer from this condition. Many of the mass shooting tragedies that we see in the news today have at their root a failed relationship – a romance or marriage gone bad. Some of the perpetrators in those cases may seek revenge as closure, a way out of the trap of the past that they have been living in. Most end with their own, self-inflicted death. These are people who can not put the past behind them and live in the moment.

It may seem like a daunting task to try to help someone with this condition. Many are initially resistant to help. But, remember that a key component is the lack of a new “family” that they can relate to and feel comfortable with, a new squad to be a part of with a new mission. Perhaps that s why programs to match up veterans struggling withman with dog PTSD with dogs is so effective. Dogs provide unconditional love in return for their care and caring for them provides a sense of purpose and mission to the vet. Caring for the animal forces them to live in the present.

Dogs can provide a wonderful first step back into the present for many of those vets, but you can provide the next vital step, if you will jump in and help. You can become that buddie that they can talk to and share stories. You can become a source of ideas and inspiration to take the necessary steps to get back into the mainstream of life and the workforce. Some may not realize that the time that they spent in the service equipped them with many of the skills that are valued in the workplace. The ability to take instructions and act upon them and the ability to work within a team structure are critical skills in today’s workforce. The old squad in combat becomes the work team in the plant or office. Help your buddie see that he/she can be a valued member of a new family at work and after hours. Help them stop living in the past and encourage their listenparticipation in the here and now. Let them know that you have their backs.

For those non-soldiers whose sense of loss or fear or self-doubt has driven them into isolation and a life in the past, it is important that they, too, find new purpose and relationships in the present. You can provide that bridge to the present by committing little more than your time. Just spending time with them listening is sometimes the best way to help them find their way out of the past. Just responding with comments like, “that must have been great, but what are you doing now?” might help. The idea is to help them re-establish perspective…to see that those things are in the past and that they need to focus more on the present. Perhaps the most difficult situation to deal with is the loss of a loved one – a spouse, a parent or a child. The challenge is to help them see those memories of the lost one as a place that they can visit from time to time… hopefully a happy place, but not a place to live in.

I love this quote from a book by Beryl Markham from her book West with the Night“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

The past is no place to live, but you can get stuck there sometimes. I’ve written twice recently about living in the moment and this little quote from George Harrison ties these two themes together nicely – “It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”

So remember the past, but don’t live there. Learn from the past, but dwell upon it (or in it). Your past might have been happy or sad, wonderful or horrible, boring or fulfilling; but, what are you doing now?

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What are you doing with your nows?

January 15, 2019

In today’s installment fo the blog Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote from Emily Dickenson – “Forever is composed of nows.”

Jack went on to write about listening to the tick-tock of a grandfather’s clock in his home and equating each second,  each tick and tock of that clock to a now moment. Being the good ex-Pastor that he is, Jack also reminded us that only God can count the seconds in forever. What are you doing with your nows?

Many of us tend to think that things will go on forever, whether it be our lives, or our loves or our loses or perhaps our loneliness. Both Dickenson and Jack were correct to point out that the forever that we see is composed of a whole bunch of nows. We don’t know how many nows we will have (only God does); so, we can’t control that part of forever. What we can control is how we react to the nows that we encounter in life – how we deal with life’s setbacks, as well as to the successes that we have in life. Neither will last forever. They exist in the nows and must be enjoyed or dealt with there. What are you doing with your nows?

The fact is that “forever” is different for each of us and none of us knows how long that is. Tragedies like the accident that killed an entire family from Dearborn happen in life and for each of them their forever was different. There is a popular saying that you see on T-shirts – Live every moment like it was your last. That was in the lyrics of a song by the Canadian group Nickleback – If today was your last day. What are you doing with your nows?

This is not to say that you live life with total abandon and disregard; but rather that you savor each moment that God give you here. Draw life in alike a deep breath and appreciate its aroma. Experience those around you and celebrate the differences that you discover. Don’t pass through your nows without thinking about them. Be aware of your presence and the presence of others in those nows. They are not throw-away mpments; they are part of your forever. Use each one in some meaningful way, because you won’t pass through them again. What are you doing with your nows?


Live in the moment, live for the moment…

January 8, 2019

Seen on an email message recently – “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyam

There was one of those “miracle” stories on the national news last night about a man who had been given up for dead by his doctors and family. He had suffered what was thought to be a fatal stroke. He was completely unresponsive and appeared to be brain dead. The family had made the decision to take him off the life support systems in the hospital and had begun making funeral plans. Then “the miracle” occurred. He woke up. Apparently, he had been suffering from a rare condition in which the brain literally shuts down. There is a big, fancy name for it.

Now, after a period of rehabilitation, he is back to a normal life with his family. Saying that he and his family now appreciate the moment and live in the moment is probably an understatement. None of us should have to go through a situation like that, but all of us should appreciate the moment and live in the moment. Just being alive to enjoy the moment is a great thing that we take for granted and don’t appreciate.

Take time each morning, when you wake up, to thank the Lord that you did wake you and that He gave you that moment to live in. If you start out by just appreciating that youthis-is-me are alive, it will make planning and doing something with those moments that you have been given more meaningful and fulfilling. There are no boring moments, no dreaded routines or jobs, no wasted time, no crushing fears or aching loneliness. There are only moments that you have been given here on earth to be alive. Live in them and be thankful that you got the chance to experience them. And, live for the next moment, for things will be different then.

One never knows how many moments we have in life. Being more aware and smell-the-rosesappreciative of those moments as we live them heightens our experiences and allows us to learn and grow with each passing moment. It also allows us to avoid living in the past and helps us focus upon the future – the moments that we anticipate just ahead.

There is a saying that goes something like “Live life as if each moment is your last”. The underlying philosophy which that saying is espousing is not to live life dangerously or stupidly, but rather appreciatively. As Khayyam put it –  “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”


Start with a mirror…

January 3, 2019

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed used this quote – “I haven’t got the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should figure it out.”  (David Sedaris)

Most of us have probably had thoughts of “changing” someone that we meet during the day, whether it be making physical changes to the way that they look to changing their behavior. Many marriages end in divorce because one of the parties was unsuccessful in getting their mate to change into what they wanted them to become. Perhaps it is human nature, or human ego, that leads us to believe that we can effect change in others.look in miror

The reality is that the only person that we have the power to change is the one that we see when we look into a mirror. We can change how we interact and react in our encounters with others. We have the power to change or abandon the preconceived notions that we have when we encounter someone who looks different or is dresses different or who talks differently from us. We can control or stop the rush to judgement over the statements or actions of others. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Our interactions with others, and our reactions to others, is based off our own frame of reference – our backgrounds and the circumstance that lead us to this place and time. Somehow, we have less problem giving deference to the differences in people that we can identify as having come from a foreign land. After all, they didn’t come from the complimentsame frame of reference that we have. Yet the same idea holds true for all of the people around us; we just don’t give a break to those that we see as coming from environments that we believe are the same as ours. But are those environments really the same? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Is the difference in background environments from ours any less dramatic for someone that grew up in an urban housing project than for someone who just immigrated from another part of the world? Why would we give the benefit of the doubt and try harder to “understand” the one and not try with both? Is there any reason to become immediately boredsuspicious of or frightened by someone of color or someone who is very large? How can I explain my reaction to the color of someone’s hair or the clothes that they choose to wear? These things are not things that I can change; however, I can change how I let them affect me and how I react to them. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

The first step to making changes to that person you see in the mirror is stopping to understand that a reaction has just been triggered within you to something in that person whom you just encountered. Was it fear? Was it a prejudice? Was it a lack of understanding of their frame of reference?  Is it real or imagined? We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

Once you stop and take that moment to recognize your initial reaction, you can begin to make the changes in you that control those reactions. If you can recognize and deal with those triggers before you actually act or react, you will have gone a long way towardsfacing new day becoming a better person and will likely find that your life becomes much more satisfying. It’s like moving from a monochromatic view of the world into a full Technicolor world. Living without the fears and prejudices that were dictating your life will allow you to embrace the diversity around you and learn from the different backgrounds of those that you encounter. We can change that person that we see in the mirror.

life-choicesSo, don’t worry about changing others. Look in the mirror and try to get that person straightened out. You’ll be glad that you did. We can change that person that we see in the mirror…and they will be a better person for that change.


What’s your resolution for today?

December 31, 2018

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.”  (Henry Moore)

Moore’s advice is good on several levels. Many who make big New Year’s Resolutions are soon overwhelmed by the those same statements of good intentions. They tend to be frustrated by focusing upon the seeming enormity of accomplishing the whole resolution, rather than breaking the whole thing down and finding a small portion of itVR2 that can be accomplished immediately – today.  It is much better to see the whole resolution as a set of steps that must be accomplished in order to reach the goal and choosing to take one of those steps today. What’s your resolution for today?

Breaking up the whole into manageable and achievable pieces goes hand-in-hand with time management. There must be time set aside specifically to accomplish the step that you have chosen to take today. It won’t happen just because you identified it as the step that you want to take. Perhaps it won’t happen at all. Maybe you bit off a bigger piece of the overall job than you can handle in a new-years-resolutions-2day. That’s OK, so long as you recognize that fact, stay focused on accomplishing something today and plan the unfinished piece for tomorrow or some future effort. Just accomplish something today that you can mark as “done” in your overall plan to reach your goal.  What’s your resolution for today?

 Sometimes our resolutions are poorly defined or maybe just poorly worded. Resolving to “be a better person on 2019” is certainly too nebulous to be acted upon or measured for success. It might be better to break down that well-meaning, but poorly stated resolution, into specific actions that you wish to take and which can be measured. Perhaps being a better person means interacting with others differently, with less pre-judgement, more acceptance of differences or just more compassion and caring. Maybe it means going out of your way, in a manner that you are aware of, to greet others, to smile and to sincerely ask how they are doing and then to listenreally LISTEN to their response. A truly better person may find things in their response that offer opportunities to help or comfort or support. At the end of the day, you can look back and measure the opportunities that you had as you encountered others and reflect on your behavior during those encounters. Were you demonstrating that you’ve become a better person? Would they agree with that assessment? What’s your resolution for today?

 Perhaps you’ve resolved to become a healthier person by losing weight and exercising more. Obviously, both of those larger goals are measurable. They are also daunting when bicycle-rider-1viewed as a whole. Both are subject to being divided into smaller, daily goals. Each meal or snack during a day becomes a measurable sub-goal. Things like portion sizes and food choices will make a measurable difference over time. Choosing to take the first step towards better fitness by joining a gym is a good first step and one that provides an endless set of next-step opportunities as you actually go to the gym and work out. Maybe the steps before that choice involved doing some research into the options that are available. Make getting started on that research today’s resolution and keep making progress. What’s your resolution for today?

 For some, finding their way back to God may be something that they wish to accomplish this year. There are many reasons that people wander away from God; too many to cover here. A good number of them have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with religion; or at least religion as it was being practiced, when they stopped going to church and wandered into the wilderness, away from God. A good first step in this case is to woman-prayingacknowledge that it’s not that you don’t believe in God; it’s just that you didn’t buy into how religion was being practiced at your last church. Don’t let that disappointment or disagreement stand between you and God. Realize that your relationship with God is personal and not dependent upon your membership in any particular religious group/denomination. The first step is to get back to prayer and your personal relationship with God. Resolve to take the first step back to God today by praying. What’s your resolution for today?

Maybe you resolved to get back to church after being away for a long time. Once you have reestablished that link with God, you can ask for His help to guide you to a group or church that better supports your needs. There are lots and lots of churches with programs and environments today that are more nurturing and supportive than you may remember from your last church. They are often filled with people just like you and provide a setting in which you can celebrate your faith together.  So, go try a few. See which ones feel welcoming and right for you. Maybe you need to break that evaluation down into the things that you think make a difference to you in a church. Do that! Make you list and then start going to try out the churches in your area. Don’t worry about denominations or affiliations, just look for alignment with your beliefs and a welcoming goaland supportive environment.  What’s your resolution for today?

So, amuse yourself with New Year’s Resolutions; but actually get something accomplished by looking at what you can do today.

What’s your resolution for today?


A star shall be your guide back home…

December 24, 2018

“In everyone’s heart stirs a great homesickness.”  (Rabbi Seymour Siegel)

I saved that quote from a post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog because I knew that I wanted to write about what it meant (at least to me).

Christmas is a time of great joy and celebration, but it is also a time of reflection and peace. It is a time when you can let your soul see the solution to the great homesicknessstar and wise men that may dwell there. For, when you imagine that star that guided the wise men to that manger in Bethlehem, you are seeing the star that will guide your soul back home, to God.

The great homesickness in Rabbi Siegel’s words is not about a physical place so much as it is about being back in the presence of God. The birth of a soul launches it on an adventure of wandering about in the physical world, some for a long time and some for a very short stay. No matter the length, during that time, that soul is away from God’s presence. The longing in our soul to get back home, to that relationship with God, grows and nags at us like a homesickness.

Some wander through life trying all sorts of different things to try to quiet that uneasy bored2feeling, that homesickness. Many believe that the accumulation of worldly power or wealth is the answer. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to try to quiet the sense of loss. Some may fall into mental illness trying to deal with this unknown and unrelenting feeling of loneliness and fear. Eventually, all souls realize that the only answer is to look to the sky, find the star that guided the wise men so long ago and follow it home…back to God.

The help that you need and desire to find your way back to God may be found as the wise men found it, in that manger in the little town of Bethlehem. Jesus was sent as our savior and guide to help us get back home to God. In John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So, the path back home to God is clear. Accept Jesus as your savior and guide and follow Him back home. Surrender yourself, pray, and look for His star this Christmas Eve. There need no longer be a great homesickness in your soul – His star shall be your guide back home.

jesus-in-manger

May your soul once again know the presence of God. Follow the star and have a great Christmas!


Take the time to remember at Christmas…

December 17, 2018

This quote from a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog started me thinking this morning about Christmases past – “Time moves in one direction, memory in another.”  (William Gibson)

In today’s hustle and bustle world, time seems to go by very fast. Holiday’s, even Christmas can speed up on us and, before we know it, they are in the past. As we decorate our tree each year we come upon two ornaments that take us back in time – ornaments that contain birth pictures of the first child of each of our children; our first grandchildren. Both are in High School now and that seems impossible. Time has flown by.

Holiday’s like Christmas do provide vivid frames of reference for our memories. They were the times each year when we all gathered together with family and friends (if we could) to celebrate and catch up with each other’s lives. Some families have a tradition of doing a Christmas family photo as their Christmas card and that allowed us to see the growth and maturing of everyone in the family. Some even accompany that with a shortChristmas past 1 story about what they family did during the last year – accomplishments, vacations and changes. We filed those stories away along with the images on the cards.

I suppose that you might have thought my headline today had to do with remembering the reason for the season – the birth of Christ – and to an extent it does; however, the real underlying thought is to take time to wander back through your memories of Christmases past. Remember those who are no longer with us. Christmas was usually a happy time and the memories that you may have of them will likely be happy ones. Remember that places where you’ve lived and the things that you’ve done at Christmas, wherever you were. Let the images of your family, from the births of your children, through many happy Christmas mornings flood back into your mind and bring a smile to your face.

If you are blessed with a long memory, float back in time to your childhood and the excitement and wonder that you felt as a child when Santa came to your house, ate the Christmas past 2cookies that you put out for him and left presents under the tree for you. How far back can you remember? Wasn’t that a pleasant experience? Hopefully, those memories are not like a long, heavy chain that you drag behind you; but, rather, like a gentle wisp of perfume floating in the air for you to enjoy.

So, take some time this Christmas to pause and allow yourself to be transported back in time to Christmases past with friends and relatives who may no longer be here but who will live forever in our hearts. As Thomas Campbell put it – “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Someday we will join them in other hearts and take our place in their Christmas memories. For now, let’s just enjoy our memories of all of the good people and things from Christmases past.

Have a great and memorable Holiday Season!