What made the dogs bark?

February 27, 2016

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”  (Churchill) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The 2016 Presidential Campaign is one of the nastier that I’ve seen in my lifetime, but it is also consistent with the lack of civility that has become part and parcel of the partisan politics in America. On the Republican side every candidate (except Kasich) is busy calling the other candidates liars or worse – not conservative enough. On the Democratic side the two seem to be trying to out-liberal each other – trying to convince voters that they are the most “progressive.”

The Republican contest would be a hoot to watch if the thought of one on these contestants getting the nomination weren’t so scary. John Kasich seems at times to be almost amused to be sharing the stage with the sideshow that is going on around him. He is the calm voice of reason almost the maelstrom that is the Republican Party these days.

The point of Churchill’s quote seems to be that it is a waste of our time to stop and react, perhaps defensively or to go on the offense, every time someone throws a stone (an insult, a slight, a demand or a rejection) our way. To Churchill’s way of thinking those are just barking dogs and we have more important things to do – a destination (or destiny) to reach. His point is that you are taking your eye off your goals if you allow yourself to be distracted by the barking dogs in your life; and that is on you.

While it is important not to let the barking dogs distract you from your goals, it might also be important to understand what the barking is about and see if there is something that you are currently doing that needs to be changed, i.e. to learn from the barking. What you may learn that is most valuable to you is what it is about you that caused the dogs to bark. barking dogIs it the way that you’ve treated others; or the way that you comport yourself in public. Do you elicit envy or disdain because of a showy display of wealth? Do you cause a protective reflex from others because of past displays of anger or hostility? Do you secretly enjoy the fear that you cause in others due to your appearance? Do others mistakenly take your naturally shy behavior as an indication of lack of interest in them or their points of view? These are all things that can start the dogs barking in your life. There’s no need to stop and throw stones at those dogs, but you can be sensitive enough about them to make some personal changes that may keep the dogs quite in the future.

Keep in mind also that many times a dog barks because it wants your attention and happy dogaffection. It wants you to play. There may be important people in your life who are barking at you because they too want your attention. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our pursuit of our goals in life that we forget to pay attention to those for whom we believe we are pursuing those goals. We miss the opportunities to play with our children or to show affection for our loved ones. All we hear are barking dogs clamoring for our time and attention; but we are too busy to do anything but stop and throw a few stones – “Not now, can’t you see that daddy’s busy” or maybe “We’ll take a vacation next year, I’m too overloaded at the office right now.”

If those are all too familiar stones that you’ve been tossing in your life, perhaps it’s time to stop and reexamine the destination that you’ve been so consumed in the pursuit of.happy family Those aren’t just barking dogs in your life; they are the reason for your life. Your real goal (destination) should not just be to work hard so that you can get things for them; but rather, to provide a loving, safe and happy environment for them and yourself. Those aren’t barking dogs in your life, they are your family pack that is inviting you to become a member. Don’t throw stone at them, join them and go have some fun. That’s what the barking at home is all about.

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Don’t rush to judgement…

February 23, 2016

“Behind every person is s story; behind every story is a person. So think before you judge, because judging someone doesn’t label who they are, it labels who you are.” The Minds Journal.com – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently.

There are many people who rush to judgement or even pre-judge people that they meet in boredday-to-day life, and that is their loss. What pops into your mind if you see a person of color coming towards you with dreadlocks and dresses in Hip Hop fashion? How about if you see a person dressed in distressed skinny jeans or a young lady with purple hair and a nose ring? Did you have good thoughts? Did you think, “Oh, how interesting, I want to meet this person”; or did your thoughts turn to “How can I avoid this person?” What do you think they were thinking about you?

It is all too easy and, unfortunately, all too normal to base our initial reactions and visualizingjudgement about people based solely upon their appearance. Others might rush to judge based upon their voice or maybe the vocabulary that they use or perhaps the accent that is evident in their speech. We all tend to stereotype or profile the people that we meet based upon some set of criteria that lurks in the back of our minds. That’s unfortunate and usually a mistake, since we have no real proof to go on when pre-judging people that we’ve just encountered.

It’s easy to understand the last part of today’s quote. It is this tendency to rush to some stereotypical judgement that leads to the labels racist or bigot or homophobic for the people who do the judging. Most would be quick to defend themselves; claiming not to be what they have been labeled; however, the proof is in their reactions and not their denials.predjuices The proof is usually found in their words to, since they tend to define broad categories of people that they have some issue about or judgement of. Thus, in their minds it is ALL blacks, or ALL gays, or ALL the homeless who possess and display the characteristics that they fear or abhor.

One wonders how these people might react if they were required to wear a scarlet letter like Hester Prynne, only with the letter B or maybe H on it, so that all could see their label. That would at least make it obvious at a glance to those who encounter them what kind of person they really are.

The real advice in today’s little quote is to take the time to get to the story behind the helperperson. I know that I’m not the only one who’s ever wondered how the homeless man sitting on the corner with a sign that reads “will work for food” got into that situation. We use a prayer for forgiveness in church every week,asking that we be forgiven for the things that we have done and those things that we have left undone.  I have not stopped to ask or to help and that is my loss for leaving that undone. When I have taken the time to get to the story behind the person that I see in front of me there is usually something to learn and someone that I end up enjoying knowing. Try it yourself: you might be pleasantly surprised.

Today, promise yourself, before you leave the house; that should you encounter someone who looks a little different or dresses a little different or speaks a little different that you will not rush to judgement. Be pleasant and say “Hi”. If the opportunity is there; rather than avoiding that person, introduce yourself and start the process of understanding the story behind that person. You might be fascinated by the story that unfolds and perhaps you’ll even make a new friend. You’ll also have the opportunity to dispel the preconceived notions that they might have about encountering you. After all, you can look pretty scary to them, too, with that scowl of disapproval on your face.

Don’t rush to judgement; rush to understanding instead.


Distance yourself from negative things and have a better day…

February 23, 2016

“Everything is going to be alright, maybe not today, but eventually, because beautiful things happen in life when you distance yourself from all the negative things.”  (Unknown)

As we start a new week, we once again have choices to make which will impact how we view things, react to things or let things affect us. We are constantly bombarded by negativemind at work things in the news, since the news media thinks we want to see and hear about the misfortunes of others, or at least the sensational bad things that happen in the world around us. In our daily lives both good and bad things happen all around us and we choose which we will focus upon. We encounter people as we go through the day and we can choose to greet them with suspicion and cynicism or with a smile and an open mind.

We can’t really be like the cartoon characters who loudly yell “La, La, La”, in an attempt to ignore or not hear the bad things in life; however, we don’t have to focus upon them or feel obligate to react to them or let them drag us down. Some people might misinterpret your lack of negative response as being uncaring; but just the opposite is true – you care; but, you just refuse to let it overwhelm you and change your approach to life and towards others. In fact, you care enough to remain upbeat and positive to help others out of their funk.

The British created the saying “Keep calm and carry on” as an expressnever give upion of this approach
to life. The sometimes stoic British ability to remain calm in the face of great danger or threat, especially during World War II, was what Winston Churchill tapped into in his famous speech that exhorted his people to “never give up.”

In our daily lives it is important to pause when negative or bad things happen before reacting to them. I’ve written here in the past about being able to say, “So what” to those things; to be able to put them into perspective and realize that most will not have the dramatic and dreaded impacts on our lives that we might initially think. After all, if you’re still there to think about them; and well, you’re still there. It didn’t kill you and that a good start and a positive thing.

rainbowSo, instead of spending any more time dwelling on that past incident, take the advice of today’s little quote and distance yourself from that and all negative things. Focus instead on finding the beautiful things that are also happening in your life. Meet someone new and perhaps make a new friend. Try something new and perhaps discover a new passion. Look for the rainbows in life and not the dark clouds

 


Make tomorrow better today…

February 20, 2016

From a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody.  We need some kind of tomorrow.”  (Toni Morrison)

Jack went on to write – Most of us are at that point in life where there’s more sand in the bottom of life’s hour glass than there is in the top.  The sand that is left represents the tomorrows that we have.  The truth is that every choice we make today…what we eat, what we read, the friends we pick, etc…affects our future.  The tomorrow we will have depends on our today.    😉  Jack

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“Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

We tend towards the poignant when talking about yesterdays and hopeful when looking towards our tomorrows. Jack’s comments about where the sands are in your life’s hourglass take on more meaning and a sense of urgency when you begin to notice that most of the sand that you are likely to have in life is already at the bottom of the hourglass. Unfortunately life does not allow a do-over by turning the hourglass upside-down; however, if one keeps looking ahead with a sense of anticipation and excitement, rather than spending time looking back over the past, what sand in left at the top can be rewarding and satisfying.

Assuming that life has not taken such a toll on your body that you can no longer function, the period at the end of most people’s lives is a time when they finally have the freedom to find the joy of volunteerism and service to others. There are some many opportunities for service in every community, that it is really not that hard to keep one’s self busy with meaningful and rewarding volunteer work. It has been my personal experience that volunteering for the jobs that no one wants to do can be the personally satisfying, but maybe that’s just me.

I volunteer to do the set up and clean up or wash the dishes or be a food server at our sewrving soupchurch Lent Soup Supper every year. In many of our local Chamber of Commerce events there are always people doing things like collecting trash or manning street barricades or setting up and tearing down tents or tables and chairs. Those aren’t the glamour jobs and those behind-the-scenes workers are seldom shown in the publicity pictures that make the paper; however the event could not take place without them toiling away somewhere out of sight. Doing those jobs well and without worrying about getting credit or publicity for them can be very satisfactory because it is a pure act of service.

Not all tomorrows will involve volunteerism and service; in fact most won’t; however, all tomorrows do provide opportunities to meet new people, try new things and accumulate new knowledge. Many people find the freedom to travel to be very rewarding later in life. Some people finally get around to taking up hobbies or getting back to those that they brain mapnever had time for earlier in life. An interesting side benefit of being a little more mature is that you are better able to understand and properly categorize and integrate new knowledge into the knowledge base that you have been accumulating all of your life. For many, the sense of wonder at new things is superseded by a sense of appreciation for them, because you now see more clearly how things fit together and make sense.

Jack’s advice about the choices that we make today affecting what our tomorrows may look like has certainly proven to be the case for many athletes, especially football players. Those who choose to play with reckless abandon, those who heeded the coaches admonition to shake off the cobwebs of a hard hit and get back in the game and those who “played through the pain” are now hobbled or worse and many wish that they had listened to the messages that their bodies were trying to tell them at the time to slow down or stop. Those who commit crimes, especially those who commit them to be able to buy drugs today are mortgaging their futures for a short bit of pleasure or relief today. Even ordinary people, who put off the things that they know they need to do, or avoid people whom they know that they need to confront, or make time commitment decisions that put success at work above family; know in their hearts that they are putting their futures at risk. Tomorrow does not get any better because you avoided things today.

When you are young you think that there will always be a tomorrow and time to make things better or right sometime in the future. When you are old, you hope that there is awomen dreaming tomorrow and do what you can to make today as great as it can be today, knowing that if you do what’s right today, tomorrow will take care of itself. Perhaps we need a little more of that type of thinking at all stages in life. What will your tomorrows bring? No one can say for sure; but, do what’s right today and you’ll at least be able to look forward to tomorrow.

Have a great today and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.


Can we talk?

February 16, 2016

The line, “Can we talk?” used to be one of Jon Rivers favorites. Joan used it to introducecan we talk quote numerous topics in her act. Today’s little saying; which, of course, I saw on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently, is sort of God’s version of, “Can we Talk?”.

“When you cannot sleep at night, have you ever thought maybe it’s God saying, ‘We need to talk, and now you have the time?’”  (Pinterest)

I can’t count the number of nights that I’ve laid there in bed wrestling with a problem or more often a fear or concern over some upcoming event that had the potential to become restless sleepconfrontational. I’ve written here a few times about letting go of the intractable problems of life or the fears that we conjure up about events that we have no ability to change. Our minds are fantastic at imagining all of the worst possible scenarios, which we then feel obligated to try to solve or come up with plans to deal with them. It usually turns out that none of our imagined disasters really occur and everything works out in the end.

How wonderful it would it be if we could avoid all of the sleepless nights of worry – and we can. Since you may not be listening to God asking you if you need to talk, maybe you should take the Joan Rivers approach and ask Him- Can we talk? I think you’ll be surprised at the immediate lift in your spirits that will result from just taking that step. Just starting out by admitting that you haven’t got this and that you need His help will lift the weight ofhand reaching for heaven feeling that you have sole responsibility from you. Then, ask for courage, guidance and strength in dealing with the issue, rather than hoping for some miracle that makes the whole problem just go away. That will get you thinking straight again.

With God on your team, I think you will find the courage to face the problem and He will help you see the right thing to do and give you the strength to carry out the plan that He has helped you formulate. There is a passage in the Bible; “If God is with us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31. Don’t be surprised if a sudden calm comes over you, too. That is a good side-effect of talking with God.

I have posted a few times about my favorite approach to vexing issues, which is to off-load them to God by letting go and saying, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” The relief that walking mancomes from letting go of the sense of failure or the fears that accompany particularly thorny problems not only allows me to get to sleep, but usually results in awakening without the fear of facing the problem head on. After all, if God is with me; how bad can any earthly problem really be?

So, the next time you are facing something that is keeping you awake at night; maybe it’s time to look up and say, “Can we talk?” God is on duty 24-7, so he’ll be there to listen and help, and the call is free.


Use your brain and control your mind…

February 12, 2016

“Do not call for black power or green power.  Call for brain power.”  (Barbara Jordan) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to add his comments about Black History Month, which is what Barbara Jordan was alluding to in her quote.

It’s interesting that the brain helps us distinguish between colors, but it is the mind that assigns tags to those colors. Those tags may include fear or mistrust or prejudices, based solely upon color. For some that is enough for them to form opinions or to make visualizationjudgments. Yet, if we used our brains, we might ask ourselves, upon what basis of facts, other than color am I basing these feelings or opinions? Have I even talked to this person? Do I even know their name or anything about their life story? How can I have jumped to a conclusion of fear or mistrust, based solely upon the one input of color? Yet many do. Use your brain.

There is an old piece of advice that is widely circulated in signs and sayings that goes: “Engage brain before engaging mouth.” It might also apply that one should engage their brains before making up their minds, especially about other people. Color is just one differentiation between people; it just happens to be the easiest to spot. Use your brain.

Language and the way people speak is another differentiation that many use to jump to talking-2discriminatory opinions. We have had such an influx of immigration from so many foreign countries that it is almost impossible not to overhear others speaking in a language that we do not understand or with an accent that is noticeable. There is also the street slang (sometimes labeled Ebonics) that is used by a portion of the African-American population. Any of these cues can kick off an immediate reaction that is just as powerful as the recognition of the color of the individual. Those reactions are often not favorable and lead to conclusions that are just as wrong as those based solely upon color. Use your brain.

The best advice against letting these or any other differences that one might notice lead you immediately to some conclusion or reaction is to engage your brain. Think before you act or react. Learn to control your mind. The first thing that most will have to do is to calm the perception of that person somehow representing a threat to you. Unless someone walks up to you with some sort of weapon in their hand, why do you perceive them to be a threat? Is it their color? Is it the way they speak? Is it how they are dressed? Why are any of those things a threat to you? Use your brain.

The key to using your brain is to let it work without a preconceived overlay of prejudice or fear. We have turned the old saying “innocent until proven guilty” completely around andtimid perverted it through our prejudices into “guilty until they can prove themselves to be innocent.” If, instead of thinking (with our minds) that every person of color or language difference that you meet is somehow out to do you harm; it might make life more interesting and rewarding, if you went into each meeting with a new person in the frame of mind that you were going to get to know them and see what interesting things that you might learn from them. You can do that if you, Use your brain.

I suspect that the people that you jump to conclusion about get awfully tired of having to exclusionprove themselves to you somehow. They may have also jumped to conclusions about you, based upon what they see or hear from you. They may have fears about you and what you may do to them, especially if you happen to be wearing a police uniform. You might immediately say how could they think that about you? Well, duh; use your brain; what’s on the news all too often these days. “If they only got to know me”, you might think; “they wouldn’t be afraid of me.” OK, so why is the opposite not true? Use your brain.

As you go about your day and the upcoming weekend, try to be more cognizant of the boredfrequency in which you let some preconceived prejudice in your mind take control of you and shape your reactions to people. The more you become aware of it the easier it might become to at least stop and try to Use your brain.

You’ll be glad that you did.


Do your part make the world a better place…

February 10, 2016

“You must make the world better by making yourself better.”  (Father Basil), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

There are all sorts of inspirational messages that tout the positive impact of one small effort, especially if enough people make the one small effort. Web sites like Go Fund Me and Crowd Rise also make the point that enough people giving just a small amount can make a huge difference.

monkSo, today’s saying by Father Basil, one of two Detroit guys who started a monastery in a remote spot in Michigan’s U.P. that was recently featured in a Detroit Free Press feature article, may provide us all with a small starting point to making a better world for everyone. If each of us resolved to become a better person – kinder, gentler and more caring for others – perhaps a tsunami of goodness would sweep across the world and it woud become a better place for us all.

When you think about it, our own actions are the only thing that we are really in control of anyway. We may throw money into a collection plate or mail in a donation to a worthy cause, but we don’t really have any idea how that money is used or for what good it went. If we stop and help someone who needs help because we care, we have an immediate sense of well-being from having made the effort. That effort starts with making the effort to become a better person ourselves.

In Father Basil’s world the monks become better people through a life of simplicity and hand reaching for heavenprayer. Not all of us can just get up and go live in a monastery in the U.P.; however, all of us can take some time to pray each day.  Perhaps if we focused out prayer not on things or needs and upon asking for God to make us better people our worlds would become better places. Maybe if instead of asking for God to give you this or that, you could ask him to help you make better decisions in your life and do the right things. I’ve occasionally prayed when I bought a lotto ticket not that God let me win, but that if I should win that God help me do the right things with the money. So far, I guess I haven’t change enough to be given that responsibility.

So, today, before you start out on another day at work or just in your life; ask God for His help at becoming a better person and then trust in Him when he provides you with the helperopportunities to actually be a better person as your day goes on. Don’t hesitate in front of the man on the sidewalk who is obviously down on his luck; stop and ask how you can help. And, if you reach in your pocket and give him the money that you had set aside for your latte or perhaps your lunch; keep in mind that you may be providing him with the means to buy the only meal that he may get today. You were a better person and the world is better for it.

Do your part today to make the world a better place by being a better you.