Let miracles happen…

May 12, 2022

Pastor Freed had an interesting quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, this morning – “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”  (Saint Augustine) 

My initial inclination was to add two words to the last part of the quote to make it read “what we think we know about nature.”  

The second though that I had was that we are pretty good at suspending disbelief to enjoy movies like the wave of superhero movies of late. Perhaps, we would enjoy life more and experience more miracles if we suspended our disbelief in them and just let them happen.

Mankind’s ego is what drives him to try to explain and understand the things that are happening all around him in life. Rather than just letting life happen and enjoying it, we find the need to understand why something happened, what caused it, and figure out a way to control that cause in the future. So, for most, it’s all about control or trying to seize control of the future.

Since trying to control the future is a futile cause to begin with, we are constantly frustrated and perhaps even angry about how things unfold. What are we to do? The Bible tells us – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

So, suspend your disbelief and relinquish control to God. Use the little prayer that I so often mention – “Not my will but thy will be done”.

You will immediately experience a lifting of the pressures that you have been putting upon yourself trying to control the future. Then you can focus upon controlling yourself and your reactions to things that happen in the present. Once you are at peace with yourself, you will starting noticing that wonderful and sometimes miraculous things happen in life.

Suspend your disbelief and let miracles happen in your life.

New Week, New Opportunities, New You

May 9, 2022

I have had that graphic sitting on my desktop for weeks and it just felt like it was time to use it. I think it is important to be about to put the past behind you, no matter what happened then, and move on and seize the new opportunities of today and the rest of this week.

Perhaps another graphic that I just got will help with that…

Moving on from the past often involves learning from our mistake or failures. Rather than letting them drag us down, we should take the time to learn from them and use them to help us adjust our path forward. One gains nothing from beating oneself up over past poor decisions or actions; however, one gains wisdom by learning from them. In fact, some of the wisest and most successful people in history were people who failed often but learned from those failures.

It is often overlooked that a key component of failure is the fact that an attempt was made in the first place. Someone tried. They may have failed, but they tried. Too many never even try, often out of a fear of failure.  Don’t allow yourself to become trapped in the sad world of “coulda, woulda, shoulda”.

It’s a new week. There are new opportunities for you. Get out there and try. Learn from your failures and move on.

Get busy with today…

May 5, 2022

A line in a story in the Morning Brew news feed that I get each morning caught my eye  – “You need to get busy with the present, not the past or the future. Here and now is what counts.” (Walter Orthmann)

(Excerpted from the Morning Brew) The story is about Walter Orthmann, a 100-year old Brazilian who recently set a Guinness World Record for spending his 84-year career at a single company. At 15, Orthmann started as a shipping assistant at the textile company Industrias Renaux S.A. That was in 1938, the same year Hitler invaded Austria and the ballpoint pen was invented. Eventually, Orthmann climbed the ladder to become a sales manager, and he’s stayed in that position ever since with no plans to retire. When asked by the Guinness people  why he kept working, today’s quote was part of his answer.

All of us should adopt Walter’s philosophy instead of spending time lamenting things that happened in the past or worrying about thing that might happen in the future. Living in the present means that we can let go of the past and that we accept that what will be will be. It means admitting to ourselves that we cannot control things that happen to us. We can only control how we react to them in the present.

The present as I write this post is Cinco de Mayo for 2022.  The holiday commemorates the defeat of French forces by the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. I found it interesting that the holiday is much bigger in the US than in Mexico itself, mainly because U.S. consumer products companies, such as beer companies, seized upon it as a marketing ploy to sell more beer and other products. It doesn’t take a whole lot of reason in the U.S. to hoist another beer.

So, whether you really care about the Battle of Puebla (the past) or the hangover that you will wake up with tomorrow (the inevitable future), enjoy today and celebrate the proud Mexican heritage that Americans of Mexican decent celebrate today. Happy Cinco de Mayo! Don’t drink and drive.

Realizing the obvious…

May 4, 2022

Pastor Jack Freed posted this bit of wisdom today in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words

“Live simply.  Love generously.  Care deeply.  Speak kindly.  Leave the rest to God.”  (Advice from the Old Hillbilly)

Given the current focus upon political correctness, Freed had to immediately clarify that he was not using the term Hillbilly in any derogatory way. He then opined that he believes in the advice.

I often like to combine quotes that I have collected over time, because they seem to make more sense of something when combined. Such is the case today. An earlier post to Jack’s blog used this quote –

“That’s the way things come clear…all of a sudden…And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.”  (Madeleine L’Engle) 

I think the “all of a sudden” part doesn’t necessarily mean that the realization takes place quickly, just that, when the light bulb comes on in your head, it feels like it just happened. In many cases it may have taken years. During that time, it wasn’t necessarily that you didn’t see the obvious, but rather that you were in denial of the obvious. That can be especially true in cases of prejudices that are driven by fears. One can go years declining the opportunities to meet new people because they are “different”. Maybe there are places that you “just don’t go” because you have unfounded fears of dangers that you can’t really identify.

Then, one day, you take that chance to talk to someone who is different or go to that place that you would never go to. Suddenly you realize that that person or place is very interesting and that talking to them or going there was a pleasure. You bang yourself on the forehead and think, why was I denying myself this experience all this while? You realize that is was unfounded fears holding you back and life becomes richer for having overcome them.

Perhaps if take the advice from the Old Hillbilly and invert the order things will look and be a lot different for you. If you stop trying to control everything (an impossible task anyway), and leave it to God, you will be free to do the rest of those things that the Old Hillbilly advised.

A quick and easy way to do that is to start each day with the little prayer that I like to use – “Not my will but thy will be done.” Then you can go on to say, “Bring it on God. I’m ready to Live simply.  Love generously.  Care deeply.  Speak kindly.” 

Realize the obvious.

Make new roads…

May 2, 2022

The Chevrolet division of General Motors has been using the tag line, “Find New Roads” for a while now and in life it is always exciting to have new experiences – to find new roads. Even more exciting I think is to make new roads. This quote that I’ve had in my “use in the future” file defines one way to make new roads. “Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”  (Lin Yutang)

Hope also creates the paths in our lives that lead to our future. Sometimes it looks, or at least feels, like there is not a path to the future, but hope continues to drive us to forge that path if none existed before. Hope leads us to the thought that Hannibal expressed centuries ago – “I will either find a way or make a way.”

Making new roads is never easy and sometimes one pursues a path for quite some time before discovering or realizing that it is a path up a blind alley leading nowhere. In those cases, it is necessary to backtrack and start again on a different path. It is not necessary to give up the hope that is driving you, but it is necessary to recognize and admit that the path you were on isn’t going to allow you to realize your hope. In that case, a modification of the Chevrolet slogan makes sense – Make new roads.

There are many collective experiences of hope that involve many people walking on what are new roads. The last two years have found many people walking on the newly created road of hope for a cure or an answer to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes for peace in the world, especially now with the war in the Ukraine. Make new roads.

You might think that hope based upon faith would be a wide and well-traveled road that is clearly marked by signs erected by the various religions of the world. For many, however, their personal faith is a new path that is not always clear or easy to walk. They may join others once a week on the highways of religious beliefs; but, on Monday the road may seem to narrow to a path or sometimes less. Sometimes hope points to a path never traveled before and that is when you must commit to your faith more than ever. Make new roads.

So, if your hopes are taking you down paths you’ve never traveled before, take a moment to get your faith bearings and put your trust in God’s will for you. Hope gets you started, but faith clears the way. You may soon notice that others of faith are walking along similar paths. Together, you are Making new roads.

So, grab the controls and enjoy the ride…

April 29, 2022

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “The bad news is, Time flies!  The good news is, You’re the pilot.”  (Michael Altshuler)

Freed when on to comment on studies that show that time does indeed seem to go more slowly when one is young that when older. I suspect that this is the same phenomenon that makes the return trip from a new destination seem shorter that the time it took to get there.

The real point of today’s quote is that you are still in control, no matter how fast things seem to be happening. Perhaps it is a blessing that time seems to fly. That usually means that you are busy and not just sitting around being bored with life. Personally, I know that I seem to be busier now, in my semi-retired life than I was when I was working full time in a big company. I have two part-time jobs and some volunteer work that keeps me busy each day. I also make it a point to do something with my wife each day and we have a dog that demands attention in exchange for the unconditional love that she gives us. Time flies by.

As we get older, I suspect that life, like that return trips from somewhere new, just seems faster because less of it is all new to us. Even though life may seem faster, there is actually more time to notice and enjoy the nuances that one might have missed when it was all new to us. We usually have become smart enough to be able to separate out the important things in life from  the chaff of distractions and the noise of “emergencies” that seem to pop up.   By slowing down and prioritizing the processing of what is happening all around us in life, we are better able to enjoy living it and not just focusing on “getting through it”. We can stop and smell the flowers.

So, grab the controls of your life and enjoy the ride. Another quote from Jack’s Winning Words seems to apply to this – “Wake up determined to go to bed satisfied.”  (Dwayne The Rock Johnson)            

Don’t ever forget that you are the pilot. Be determined that you will control not the events of the day but your reactions to them and you will go to bed satisfied with your day, no matter how fast it may have seemed to go by.

A good way to put yourself in the right frame of mind is to start each day with a little prayer thanking God for giving you another day, letting go of your need to control things by saying, “not my will but thy will be done”, and asking for God’s help reacting to things throughout the day. Then at the end of the day thank God again for your day and reflect on what you accomplished or learned that day.  It’s all good. Be satisfied. Enjoy the ride. You have God as your co-pilot.

Excuse me, did you drop this?

April 27, 2022

This quote caught my eye some time ago, so I saved it. “To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s trash.”  (Bill Nye) 

I think the quote is true and good advice, but I also believe that there is nothing wrong with bringing it to the attention of the offender (thus the title for today’s post).

I suppose that I am becoming (if not one already) an old curmudgeon; however, I just can’t let some things go by without trying to bring it to the attention of the offender and bystanders (some might call it shaming).

I live in the small Village of Milford in Southeastern Michigan. Like most villages, towns and cities we have laws that were enacted for good reasons, many for reasons of public safety. Our streets have signs clearly pointing out places where (and who is to) to stop at corners and where and when left hand turns cannot be made. Yet every day I see people choosing to ignore those signs. They are effectively thumbing their noses at our laws because to obey them might cause them some inconvenience.

I take whatever opportunity I get to point to them as they go by or to honk at them if I see them making that illegal turn or cruising through a stop sign intersection. Sometimes they just smile at me sheepishly and acknowledge with a head nod that they realize what they have done. Sometimes they are so distracted by looking at their phone that they don’t even see me. Sometimes they show their complete disdain for our laws by flipping me the bird. Those last ones are the most disgusting of all, since they obviously know that they are breaking our laws and just don’t care. They are saying, “Your stinking laws don’t apply to me.”

Another sign of this self-centered disdain for others is the litter that we see on the sides of streets. Many feel that, when they have finished their takeout meal or drink, it is OK to just roll down the window and toss their trash out. Others, taking heed of Nye’s advice, adopt sections of roads and spend hours picking up that trash. Which do you think is leaving the world a better place?

I think that kind of self-centered disdain for others and the rule of law is at the core of much of the political unrest in the country. The concept of “we”, that we are all in this together, has given way to the concept of “Us” vs. “Them”. Obeying the laws of the land has always been largely a voluntary thing, but it was more the norm before the deep political divide that now seems to have hold over the country. The appeal of individual freedom to do as one pleases has come to dominate our thinking and weakened the concept of the collective good (a bedrock of societies) and the rule of laws.

I don’t disagree with Nye’s thought that we must be willing to pick up the messes that others leave behind, but I don’t see anything wrong with also letting them know that what they did is not right and not in the common good. We must continue to promote and reinforce the common good; otherwise, we just join one of the groups – Us or Them – and that’s not good for anyone.

Excuse me did you drop this?

Earth is not happy…

April 22, 2022
Earth Day 2022

I got this graphic as today’s inspirational message and couldn’t help but think that earth wouldn’t really be in a happy mood, if it were possible for it to have moods. In fact, earth would be in a foul mood just like it’s atmosphere. Those billions of pesky little any-like creatures who are running around on its surface (and below) and in its skies have created enough pollution to make earth hot under the collar and earth is showing its displeasure with severe weather events, melting icecaps and rising seas.

So, on this Earth Day, instead of being happy or blissfully ignorant, we should all be more aware of the impact that we are having on Earth and take heed of the need to change our ways before the Earth finds ways to deal with this infestation of humans. We hear much about the need to all get along with each other; however, if we don’t figure out how to get along with the Earth first, that won’t matter.

As I sat thinking about earth’s current state and the direction in which we seem to be heading it occurred to me that the current hot political word of the moment – “woke” – applies. Although it has recently been perverted by politicians to use in a very negative sense for political gain, the definition that I found online for it seems to apply – It suggests rage, passion, resistance, action; seeking to draw a line against the unacceptable – .

We all need to become woke to the damage that we are causing to the earth and draw a line against the consequences if we do not make changes. For now at least, this is the only place that we have to live, so destroying it makes no sense – it is unacceptable.

Instead of a Happy Earth Day, we need a Woke Earth Day. Let’s draw that line.

Worry about liking yourself first…

April 21, 2022

I’ve had this quote lying around in my quotes collection for quite some time. I felt that it is true, but I couldn’t seem to find the right words to describe why I felt that way.

“Remember: The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.”  (Douglas Coupland, novelist)

Then it dawned upon me that I have written about why this true several times. It involves liking yourself and being comfortable with who you are. Feeling lonely is mostly about not having someone else there to affirm and validate who you are and that is based upon doubts that you may have about yourself. Sometimes those doubts are based upon the inability to forgive yourself for a mistake in judgement or actions. I’ve posted here a few times about forgiving yourself. Most of the time forgiving yourself involves accepting that God forgives you first. You really don’t need the reassurance of others to validate yourself. You can self-validate and indeed you must; but first, you must be able to accept God’s forgiveness and then forgive yourself.

Once you accept and become comfortable with who you are you will notice that is literally impossible to become lonely, since there are several billion other people walking the earth with you. Your interactions with those that you encounter will no longer involve using them to validate yourself; but, rather, sharing life experiences with them and, by sharing, enriching your life and theirs. You don’t need them to make you feel better about yourself, but by sharing time and experiences with them you both will feel better about life and yourselves.

There is a famous business book by Antony Thomas Harris titled “I’m OK – You’re OK” that deals with how to interact with people with different personality types. The key to using these techniques in business or in life lies in that first part “I’m OK”. You have to understand and be OK (comfortable) with who you are before you can move on to dealing with someone else.

So, maybe Coupland is correct. When we feel lonely, we need to be alone so that we can get right with God and ourselves, forgive ourselves if necessary, validate ourselves and get back to the point of feeling that “I’m OK”. If you can get there, the lonely part will take care on itself.

Hey, “you’re OK”, too.

Make your path…

April 20, 2022

Today’s inspirational graphic may seem to point to some hidden “path” to achieve your dreams; however, you take the first step along that “path” when you turn your dreams into goals.

All of us have dreams and most are simple musings about things that we think we might like to do or which might be fun to do. Sometimes those dreams take on greater meaning and become goals in our lives. Once they become goals, then this quote from Hannibal takes over – “I will either find a way or make one.” Hannibal famously made a way to get over the Alps in 218 BC to attack Rome in the second Punic War.

Many times, the dreams that drive us have no easy path to achieve, so we must make one. That usually means planning, dedication and hard work. Making the path to your dream often means getting the education that is required, whether that is learning a trade or getting advanced college degrees. One does not just stumble upon some magical path to becoming a doctor or lawyer or teacher. It takes years of hard work and perseverance. Make your path.

Turning your dreams into goals involves process. Part of that process is a realistic evaluation of your dream as a goal. Some dreams involve things that cannot possibly be achieved, due to constraints or requirements that cannot be met. Those dreams are best left as idle musings and one can then fantasize about what one might do if the dream came true. Once you have separated the chaff of pipe dreams from achievable goals, make your path.

Dreams that pass the test of being realistically possible and become a goal must then be turned into a roadmap (the path) of things that need to be done to make progress towards that goal. Once process takes over one can begin got break the path to achieving that goal down into smaller, achievable steps, with sub-goals along the way. Beware the tendency to try to achieve too much in each step or to become discouraged by the slow pace of the progress that you seem to be making. Celebrate each small victory or step along the way and keep revisiting and refreshing your view of the goal. Make your path.

Perhaps it will help if you print out Hannibal’s quote and post it on your wall to look at every now and then when you might get discouraged. It will remind you of the goal and of the need to make a way. It may help you be patient while making that way. If it were easy there would have been a simple and straightforward path in front of you. There seldom is. Make your path.

Venturing into the unknown to make a new path is a scary proposition; however, you have a traveling companion in God. If you trust in God and continually ask for his help, he will show you the way. You may find that God has a different destination in mind for you and that is OK. You will know that you have arrived at where God wants you to be when it dawns upon you that “this is what I was supposed to be doing”.  Make your path.