Just do it – the unexpected…

September 29, 2022

“If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.” (Fay Weldon)

I suppose that today’s quote could have been shared under the headline – Don’t bore yourself. Life can become so routine and so repetitive that you do actually bore yourself. It is easy to convince yourself that not trying new things is just being safe or cautious. When we stop trying new things or doing the unexpected we can become boring to others and to ourselves. Do the unexpected.

As one gets older it is especially east to stop trying new things that involve physical activity, since one becomes less capable of such activities. While that is likely prudent with activities requiring great strength or endurance, we often let that hesitancy to try physical activities spread across too wide of a spectrum and cause us to become sedentary. Age may slow your daily walk to a shuffle but don’t let it make you a couch potato. It’s really boring on the couch. Do the unexpected.

It is even more insidious when we allow that hesitancy to do the unexpected to interfere with our relationships or making new friends. One thing that many seniors start to feel in the tightening of the circle of friends that they may have, due to deaths or other causes. The world can begin to feel smaller and less friendly. One needs to always keep adding new friends. Do the unexpected.

So, while it may be impractical or even dangerous to take up rock climbing or white water kayaking when you get older, it is still possible to make new friend and gain new knowledge by sharing experiences with others. Instead of withdrawing and avoiding new people, make it your goal to make at least one new acquaintance or friend each day. Smile and speak to the people you meet. Reach out your hand and greet them with a genuine interest in what they may have to say. Do the unexpected.

Not every encounter will result in making a new friend. Not every person that you meet will even return the interest or make the effort to stop and get to know you. But those who do welcome and return your effort will provide you with the unexpected – new knowledge and new experiences. You may be surprised how many of those people were hoping that someone would acknowledge and talk to them. Do the unexpected.

Doing the unexpected does not need to be dangerous or to involve great physical activity, but it does have to involve you getting out of your comfort zone and taking the risk to do the unexpected. Sometimes not much happens that you can see but taking the time to smile and maybe say a kind word to someone that you pass may change their whole day. Just thinking about that can also give an unexpected boost to your day. Do the unexpected.

Be brave, choose the third alternative…

September 22, 2022

Today Pastor Freed used this quote ion his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Fear makes cowards of us all.”  (Shakespeare)

That brought to my mind the common statement that when faced with danger (something that we fear) the response alternatives are most often fight or flight. Yet, there is a third alternative that we perhaps too seldom choose – seek to understand. Be brave.

It is fear that provokes racist or homophobic responses in people when they meet someone who looks or acts different from them.  That fear is driven more by ignorance than by any real threat. Both of the alternatives of fight or flight are reactions born of cowardness and both are failures. Only by facing the unknown danger and trying to understand it can we learn from the situation and grow as human beings. Be brave.

You may not be able to control the wave of fear that washes over you when meeting someone who is different looking, perhaps even scary or threatening looking. That fear is fear of the unknown. The real choice that you face is taking action to avoid the perceived danger by flight, or even by fight, or regaining control of yourself and trying to understand the person or situation that you are facing. Be brave.

By trying the third alternative you are trying to understand two things – what is it that is causing the fear reaction in you and what, if any, is the real threat posed by this person or this situation? If you perceive that the treat is real, the flight response is almost always the safest way to proceed, rather than making things worse by choosing to fight. In any event, stopping to ask yourself why you reacted out of fear to the person, or the situation, will let you examine the premise upon which that fear was based. Prejudices are ugly things that are easy to recognize even within yourself; yet, still difficult to deal with. Be brave.

Acquiescence or going along to get along, especially in the face of prejudices like racism and homophobia, is an insidious form of cowardness. Staying silent is a form of agreement with the racists or homophobes with whom may associate and makes you an accomplice to their prejudiced behavior. Remaining silent when you witness such behavior never makes you feel better about yourself later. Speak up. Be brave.

So, resolve today that rather than continuing to limit yourself to only the two responses to the perceived threats that life brings your way – fight or flight – you will instead remain calm and seek to better understand both your own response and what real danger, of any, there is in the situation. Knee-jerk reactions driven by prejudices are just Jerk reactions. Be brave and choose the third alternative.

Be thankful always…

September 20, 2022

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.”  (Unknown)

I find that I often stop and thank God for also saving me from harm, embarrassment or other of life’s potential calamities. Maybe that is acknowledging the question,” Why did this NOT happen to me?”

I choose to believe that God was watching over me and led me away from danger or harm. Perhaps that is a moment of happiness that the quote alluded to, but I prefer to think of it as a separate example of God’s influence on my life.

Do you have moments that you can reflect on and be thankful that something didn’t happen to you or maybe there was some calamity or embarrassment that you were saved from experiencing? Do you think that was just happenstance? If not, did you take the time to thank God?

We seem to be more focused upon thanking God for things that we may have prayed for to happen, rather than thinking about all of the times that we should be thankful that something didn’t happen. That seems to me to be an attempt at drawing a line between those things that God is and is not in control of.

If you pray, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” It is much easier it is just to acknowledge that He is in control of everything and take the time to thank Him for the good things that happen as well as asking for help getting through the bad things. So, when you have those, “Wow that was close”, encounters with things that could have gone wrong, take the time to thank God for saving your bacon again.

Be thankful always.

So, get started already…

September 19, 2022

Today’s inspirational graphic is a great reminder that perseverance is an important part of success…

Quitting never leads to success. I would also submit that Wayne Gretzky’s quote is even more important – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

One can have regrets for having given up their pursuit of a goal, but at least they tried. The remorse that one feels when they reflect on not even having tried is much greater. Almost or not quite are better mental places to be than coulda, woulda, shoulda.  One can learn from a failed attempt, but one can only lament not trying at all.

So take today’s quote to heart AFTER you take the the most important step and get started. Success is not going to reach out an find you. You must pursue it.

So, get started already!

Who will you be tomorrow?

September 15, 2022

If you start out each day with the thought in mind from this graphic, perhaps you will be a better person both tomorrow and today.

Too often we do not put enough (if any) thought into our actions and reactions as the day progresses. Sometimes we act or react out of unfounded fears. Sometimes it is preconceived notions or prejudices that dictate our behavior. Maybe wed just go along with the crowd or “go along to get along”. If we rally stopped to think about situations as they occur, might we act differently? That is especially true when our actions or reactions are driven by prejudices.

 It is hard to constantly be aware that you are making decisions on how to act and to examine those decisions in real-time before acting or reacting. Most often you may reflect later upon a decision and realize that it was poorly made without any basis in fact. At least having that realization is a step in the right direction – the direction of trying to think and consider your action/reaction before you act in the next similar situation.

I have opined here a few times that I use a little prayer quite often, especially when I have one of those “after the fact” moments of realization that I’ve reacted poorly to something or someone – “Lord help me make good decisions today”. If nothing else, it puts me on notice to be more thoughtful before I make a decision or judgement and act. Try it.

So the real lesson out of today’s graphic is that what you will be tomorrow is in your control and is based upon the thoughtful decisions that you make today. Maybe instead of using the Nike ad advice to “Just Do It”, we would all be better served by the motto first used in 1911 by Thomas J. Watson of IBM – THINK.

Remember that what you become tomorrow begins with what you do today. Think about it before you just do it.

Don’t quit…

September 8, 2022

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote –

“I was going to quit, but I wasn’t done.”  (Sent by Elizabeth R) 

Freed went on to write – A cartoon shows a disheveled woman asking, “Do I work at home, or do I live at work.”  Are you one of those virtual employees?  If you have a strong work ethic, you know the feeling.  You’re given a job.  You do the job.  No excuses. 

Some may see this quote as a metaphor for life in general. Life can seem to be overwhelming sometimes and we may have the urge to just quit, to give up, to admit defeat in life; but we are not done. We cling to life and don’t quit because we have hope – hope for a better future.

Out of that hope comes faith. And, that faith assures us that we are no alone in whatever struggles we are facing, God is with us. That faith gives us courage and the resolve to persevere., even in the face of death.

So, today, no matter what challenges you are facing in life, renew your hope and tap into your faith. God is not done yet.

Don’t even consider quitting, you are not done yet.

What now?

September 7, 2022

Today’s quote is from author Ann Patchett’s self-inspired essay “What Now?” — the work in which these reaffirming words appear – Just because things hadn’t gone the way I had planned didn’t necessarily mean they had gone wrong.

Many people spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about or planning things that are to come, as if they really have control over what is to happen. They don’t. At best, they have control over how they react to things that are yet to come. So, considering alternative course of action, based upon plausible scenarios is not a complete waste of time, maybe just not the best use of your time.

Some also waste time looking back on things that have just occurred and regretting decisions that have already been made and cannot be undone. Regret is a terrible waste of time. Better that one should spend time trying to learn from past mistakes, so they do not make them again.

Perhaps you can make the most of your time by starting each day with the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”. That little prayer takes the burden of the events of the day off your shoulders by admitting to yourself that you are not in control of them and surrendering them to God’s will.

Next, take back ownership of the only thing that you do control by praying, “Lord, help me make good decisions today.” It is how you decide to react to the event of your day and the decisions that you make when things occur that will make the day a good thing or not.

If you start each day that way, you’ll be ready for “What Now”.  Try it.

Make a wrinkle today…

September 4, 2022

I forget where I saw this quote; perhaps on the Jack’s Winning Words blog or perhaps in one of the emails I get about quotes of famous people, but it just seemed to click with me today – “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”  (Mark Twain)

Smiling is not something that happens without thought. If you ever have the chance to see what you look like when you are not consciously trying to look any way at all, you will see that your mien (the natural, relaxed state of your face) is not only not a smile; it is usually not very pleasant looking. It’s not that you are unhappy about anything; it’s just that when our faces relax our faces and lips droop into what can be interpreted as a frown or unhappy look.

Most of us, myself included, aren’t always conscious of what we look like (or what people see in our faces) as we go through the day. That’s why someone may ask you if something is wrong or if you don’t feel well. You can change that by smiling throughout the day.

If nothing else, you may be pleasantly surprised at people’s reactions to seeing you smile as you pass by. They may smile, too. They may even speak to you, because you seem to be a pleasant person who is obviously happy. People may seem to be flocking to you. That is partially because those who avoided you and your frown in the past will now engage with you and partially because people prefer to be around happy people and not sad or down people.

People don’t often ask frowning people to share whatever it is that is making them frown; however, many people will be curious and may ask about what is making you appear to be so happy that you have a smile on your face. Frowners look like they just swallowed a frog, while smilers appear to have just hit the lottery. Which would you rather look like?

So, today, make a wrinkle; make the conscious effort to smile as you go through the day. You may find that it is not easy. We often smile when we think of something that makes us happy. Perhaps if you make the effort to smile, happy thoughts will come to mind. Happiness does seem to feed upon itself.

Make a wrinkle today – SMILE!

You cannot ignore the truth…

August 24, 2022

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this very appropriate quote. With all of the political rhetoric that is swirling around about people being “woke”, this truth is sometimes overlooked –

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.”  (Johnny Depp)

The fact is that homophobia, bigotry, and racism exist in our society. Sexism and the glass ceiling exist in our society. Many things that we know in our hearts are wrong exist in our society and some have become systemic. You may try to close your eyes or look the other way when you see or encounter these things, but you cannot close your heart to the feeling deep down that they are wrong.

Most of those things are driven by fear. Fear of the unknown or unusual. Fear of people who don’t look or act like me. Fear of things that I don’t understand. That fear provokes our fight or flight reaction. Many politicians, who are in the news almost daily, feed on that fear to garner support for themselves.

Some people when faced with the truth become angry and fight. Many just try to run away from or ignore the things or people that they encounter or the wrongs that they witness happening. But there is always that pesky feeling in their hearts that this is wrong. It is the acknowledgement of that feeling and perhaps taking some action to deal with that acknowledgement that really constitutes being “woke”.

There are certainly those on the “woke” side of things who propose solutions that also cause fear – “defund the police” comes to mind. They took the need to resolve the systemic problems within many police departments to the extreme and proposed dissolving the police departments and starting over with law enforcement. That is not a practical solution either and just feeds the fears of the people who are still in denial.

What can you do? First, don’t just close your eyes and try to pretend that the issues don’t exist. Trust that feeling in your heart that there is a wrong going on and resolve to take action to correct it. At a personal level that means not participating in the wrong. Trying hard not to be a bigot or a racist or a homophobe. Doing what is right, yourself, instead of looking the other way.

 At a higher level one can join the various groups or movements that are working to make peaceful corrections in our society. Those are not groups out rioting in the streets or walking about brandishing firearms. They are working for changes to the laws or to policies that support discrimination within businesses or government. Find a group like that and join their efforts.

Doing those things will change the feelings that you get from your heart. Doing the right things never makes your heart feel bad. You cannot ignore the truth. Your heart knows.

Go ahead and be nice…

August 23, 2022

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Everybody’d be nice to you if they knew you were dying.”  (Bruce – Robert DeNiro – in Bang the Drum Slowly

The ironic reality is that everyone will be dying, we just don’t know when. Maybe we should all be nice to one another, since all of us will die someday, somehow; we just don’t know when or how.

We often hear people saying, “I wish I had the chance to tell him/her that I loved him/her before they died.” The sad fact is that you did and in some cases still do have that chance to tell them, but you did not (or do not) take it. Perhaps if we start each day with a mental to-do list that includes being nice to all that we meet and telling our loved ones how much they mean to us, we will not end the day with regrets.

I often see T-shirts with the message “Be Nice” on them. I don’t recall seeing any with the message “Be Mean”. Maybe, if you can imagine that everyone that you encounter during the day is wearing a Be Nice T-shirt, that will help you be nice to them, too.

The real opposite of being nice is not really being mean, it is being indifferent. When we encounter a stranger, maybe even one who is obviously in need or distress, we all too often indifferent to them. We do not take the opportunity to inquire about them for fear that they will ask something of us. We feel that we are much too busy with issues or priorities in our own lives to take time to listen to their concerns or needs. We’re not being mean; we are just being (or trying to be) indifferent.

Every Sunday morning at church we start the service with a confession of our sins and we use the phrase, “things that we have done and things lefty undone” to define those sins. I often reflect on those opportunities that I left undone during the week out of indifference to someone else. What comes to your mind?

So, put on your mental “Be Nice” T-shit every day and guard against indifference. Have in mind that everybody that you meet that day is dying someday – maybe today.

So, go ahead and be nice to them while you can.