Pivoting to inclusiveness…

August 30, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this post, which I have re-blogged in its entirety –

“I used to use the word diversity all the time.  Now, I’ve learned to use the word inclusiveness.”  (Oprah)  I live in a community which is very diverse…over 60 different languages spoken in the homes of our high school families.  Oprah reminds us that it’s possible to be diverse without being inclusive.  “Inclusive” is an action word, to reach out and welcome in.  We are not really a community, a church, a neighborhood without being inclusive.   😉  Jack 

The change noted in Oprah’s quote is one of perspective. Instead of being “outside looking in” at how things are,  as the word diversity allows us to do; the word inclusiveness forces the perspective of being inside and taking action to be a part of what is going on all around us.

time for changePivoting is the term de jure in business and political vernacular this year. Literally it is used to mean making a change in direction or opinion about something, but is used to make the speaker seem somehow more businesslike or serious. In politics pivoting allows a candidate to change directions without seeming to be wishy-washy on something. The candidate can say that, “I didn’t change my mind on that, I pivoted.” Whatever, it is still a change of direction or mind.

One reason that some diehards are finally pivoting from the use of diversity to espousing inclusiveness is that inclusiveness allows them to remain somewhat relative and influential in the conversation orstubborn events that are happening, rather than being labeled as old fashion or accused of fighting a rear guard action against the inevitable demographic changes that are happening in our society. They have realized that they can join the movement or be by-passed by it, if they are hunkered down in their foxholes trying to resist the changes. In U.S. politics those foxhole resisters are the ones gerrymandering political districts to try to avoid being overrun by the demographic changes. Those “safe districts” are their foxholes and they are hunkered down in them.

Jack points out that it is possible to be diverse without being inclusive. It is pretty much impossible these days to be inclusive without also being diverse. There are certainly communities and even whole countries that have populations that are relatively homogeneous in their ethnic makeup; however, even in those cultures there is both some diversity (whether it be in class or religion or other characteristics) and most have achieved some level of inclusiveness. Some have not and we have seen the use of “ethnic cleansing” in many of those places, whether it is driven by differences in ethnicity or religion.

predjuicesEvents around the world and the massive movement of people throughout the world constantly force the reexamination of the characterization of people using the terms “Us” and “Them”. More and more of “Them” are joining the ranks of “Us”, such that the “Us” population is rapidly growing while the “Them” population is becoming smaller and less relevant.  The sooner we get to an understanding that it all of “Us” that have to learn to live together the better.

So perhaps, instead of building walls to keep “Them” out; we should be working on strategies and programs to help all of “Us” have better and more productive lives. We need not only to pivot to usingpeople talking the word inclusiveness; but, also to start living inclusive lives.  Just keep an eye out for the foxholes dwellers. There are some really frightened and angry people living in those holes. The challenge for Us is to figure out a way, not to by-pass Them, but to include them, too. Sometimes it ain’t easy being inclusive, but in all times that is better than the alternative. Let’s keep expanding “Us” until there is no more “Them”.

Have a great and inclusive week ahead.

I may not be perfect, but I’m making progress.

August 27, 2016

“Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.”  (Julia Cameron) – as seen on a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Many people get down on themselves when they make a mistake; beating themselves up about it, rather than focusing upon learning from the mistake and trying to make progress in their lives. We have to accept the fact that none of us is perfect and that we will makebored2 mistakes or have failures in our lives. What we shouldn’t accept is that those failures or mistakes define us. What defines us is what we do with and about those mistakes and failures. Do we learn from them and turn that knowledge into the wisdom to not make the same mistakes again; or, do let those mistakes take us into dark holes of self-loathing or depression?

Every day is a good day if you have the right attitude. Even if it is a day filled with mistakes or failures, it was also a day of learning; it was a day when you discovered things not to do in the future and paths not to take again. Sure there might have been some pain; but as dinosaurlong as there is learning from that pain it was a day well spent. Perhaps it was even more valuable than the day might have been had you made no mistakes, had no set-backs or suffered no failures; but , from which you learned nothing new.

So, at the end of the day or the week, you should reflect on the things than may not have gone as you thought they would, the mistakes that you realize now that you made or the failures that you had and se what you can learn from those misadventures. You might even find that you can laugh about them now. It’s OK to say out loud to yourself, “That was pretty dumb”; so long as you are also seeing the things to learn from in those events.

The automaker Lexus used to use the tag line – “The relentless pursuit of perfection” – which they replaced with the new tag line – “Engineering the impossible”. I liked their old tag line and it is perhaps a great mantra to repeat to yourself as you reflect on and learn Perfectionfrom your own mistakes; that your life is a relentless pursuit of perfection. Think of it this way; if you’ve never relented from that pursuit; then you’ve not yet failed. You may have hit some bumps in the road, but the road is still ahead and you are still traveling it. The good news is that you have a great guide along that road to help you, if you let Him. Just keep this little verse in mind from Philippians 3:12 –

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t get any more perfect than that.

Keep striving and learning my friends.

Do you hear the whispers?

August 25, 2016

From a recent Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this thought

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  (Aldous Huxley)

I’ve written a few times here about the power of music in our lives – it’s ability to alter our mood by evoking memories (think of your favorite love song or song about a lost love) or conjuring up imagery in our minds eye (the song Eye of the Tiger comes to mind). Songs can have a powerful influence on our lives, but not nearly the power of silence.

It is in total silence that our mind is free to wander on its own and to focus upon hearing that small littlesilence voice that is always trying to get through to us – perhaps the voice of God; trying, as always, to call us back to Him.

There is a saying that we have on a little plaque on our kitchen wall that seems appropriate:

“Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud.”  (Greg Olson)

We live in such a fast-paced and loud world that making time for silence is hard; yet it is essential to our well-being and to the practice of our faith. It is a well-known public speaker technique to begin to speak softly when you’re faced with a noisy audience. It causes everyone to stop speaking themselves and to lean in to try to hear what the speaker is so softly wonderingsaying. Perhaps God uses that technique to get our attention by whispering to us. We really have to lean in in order to hear what He is saying.

There is a time before church every week; before the organist starts playing the prelude to the service and before the sanctuary fills with the buzz of people still talking about their secular lives, where I often see one or two people quietly sitting in the pews, taking advantage of the silence to pray or listen for the voice of God. Sometimes you will find people just sitting in church during the week doing the same thing. They are making quite moments and listening for the whispers of God.man praying

One doesn’t have to be in church to listen for God, but it does help to be in quite surroundings, in silence, if possible. For many, those moments may come at night, while lying in bed; if they are able to shut out the thoughts of the rest of the day and focus upon the silence. Even then, God waits for you to initiate the conversation; but, once you call on Him, listen intently to the whispers that you will hear in reply. It is the Shepard calling and as is written – “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27

So, listen up people…God has something to say to you.

Maybe seeing is believing…

August 20, 2016

Jack had one of those little “stop and smell the roses” sayings on his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – recently:

“As rough and tough as the world is, don’t forget to see the beauty in simple things.”  (Unknown)

That’s good advice in today’s hurried, multi-tasking oriented world. Stopping to puppyappreciate a beautiful sunset or a bird on your bird feeder or maybe just the loving pet sitting by your side can be rejuvenating and uplifting. Perhaps it’s the pause from the hubbub of daily life or maybe the quick association in your mind between what you are seeing now and a better or more joyous time in your life. Whatever it is, stopping to recognize and appreciate some small beautiful thing or moment is refreshing and perhaps has more meaning than you realize at the time.

I often save the little quotes from Jack’s blog for use as topics or inspiration for later posts of my open. As I was saving that quote I noticed that two quotes above it in my little list was this one from an earlier post that Jack had done –

“When you can see God in small things, you’ll see God in all things.”  ― Donald L. Hicks

It hit me right away that the two sayings belong together and that seeing the beauty in simple things is seeing God in the small things in life. Once you allow that to happen in
meyour life; then, you can see God in all things in life and that helps you better understand and appreciate life.

Perhaps you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to see and appreciate God’s presence in all things in life by starting each day with this quick little prayer from Psalm 118:24 –

This is the day the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

You might be surprised by how good things “look” to you when you start off with that attitude about life and the day ahead.

Try looking for God in all things in your life. Start with the small things and work your way up. You can’t help but feel better when you start to see the beauty of God in all things around you.

I’ll be seeing you…

Maybe wisdom is – knowing how to avoid having to use the exceptions…

August 13, 2016

From recent posts to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come these two quotes – 

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”  (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

“Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you need it.”  (Doug Larson)

boredWe all gain knowledge over time; or at least we are exposed to situations from which we could/should learn and gain knowledge. We may or may not gain wisdom from those experiences. One definition that I found for wisdom is – Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.

So, wisdom is actually the display of the use of all of the knowledge and experiences that one has had in life, combined with some thoughtful insight and some common sense. One can take from that definition that a person displaying wisdom will know when to use those exceptions that apparently come from living long enough to have discovered or experienced them. More importantly that same wisdom will help that person avoid those situations that would require the use of that wisdom. No one ever said at the end of an episode of the TV show Jackass that the participants were wise; although they might painfully be a bit more knowledgeable at the end of the episode.

Perhaps the secret to wisdom is found in the last three characteristics in the definition visualizingabove –understanding, common sense and insight. All of us go through life experiencing things and learning things, but not all take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and our experiences to understand them and gain some insight from them. Some also may suffer from a deficit of common sense. Another saying from a recent post that Jack made was this – “To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”  (Edmund Burke). Perhaps to have experiences without learning is the same and is caused by the same lack of reflection.

Just taking time to think at the end of an event or experience in your life is helpful. Ask yourself, “what just happened; how did that happen; how did I react to what just wisdom2happened and what can I take away from what just happened?” Going through a thought process like that can help you turn an experience into knowledge and gain insight that will help turn that knowledge and experience into wisdom. That wisdom will better prepare you for the next experiences that you have.

Have a thoughtful, reflective weekend and perhaps you’ll gain in wisdom.


Is it really living in Virtual Reality?

August 10, 2016

We live in a world where some of the most popular new things are being built around so-called Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR). The huge hit Pokemon Go is an Augmented Reality game that overlays a fantasy world over the top of real world AR1surrounding; a place where Pokemon Gyms pop up filled with imaginary monsters to be battled with and captured. On the horizon is the next step, which will divorce us completely from the real world and place us within totally imaginary worlds – virtual worlds – as Facebook and others work to develop the concept of Virtual Reality.

One is forced to wonder what is wrong with living in real reality. Perhaps the reality that we normally live within is just not exciting enough for us. It certainly can be as dangerous and any game; just watch the evening news to see the reports of the latest robberies, car-jackings and shootings in your area. I attribute some amount of the growth in these electronics-based reality alternatives to the decline in reading among the younger VR2generations especially.  People in earlier generations found their “virtual reality” in their minds when they read a good novel and they didn’t even have to have a smartphone or a pair of goggles. When one became enthralled in a good book, the story played out in our “mind’s eye” and not on some screen.

Perhaps, then, these modern electronic escapes into AR or VR are somehow the equivalent to an interactive, real-time novel that is playing out in front of our eyes and which requires that we not only visualize what is happening , but join in on the story.  Indeed, what we do in AR or VR space becomes a major part of the story. The human mind has the amazing ability to make that leap into virtual space and react to what it is “seeing”.  I’ve had a few VR experiences and can attest to that myself. I can also attest to the VR problems of experiencing vertigo and nausea, at times, when visiting VR spaces.

Aside from the current gaming phenomenon, AR has had a few relatively unsuccessful starts over the years.  The most recent and well know is probably Google Glasses, those nerdly-looking specs that provided additional information about things at which the wearer might be looking. That seemed to mirror the point of view of the original robot from the movie Terminator.  It was probably a bit annoying over time and likely had less real value that initially thought.

The current state and usefulness of AR and VR technology aside; one must ask why our own reality is not good enough to keep us entertained and happy? What is it about yourVR1 own life that you find so boring that you must venture out in search of Pokemon monsters to capture or wander about in some VR world? The creators of Pokemon Go state that they wanted to get gamers off the sofa and out in crowds where they could meet and interact with others. I suppose there is some of that, but it is hard to meet others when you are heads-down starting at your smartphone.

Perhaps if the game (and phone) sensed when other players were around and showed them on the near-by players’ screens they might look up and actually say hello. Maybe the game could even encourage cooperation among nearby players, so that ad hoc teams are formed on the fly. I’m relatively sure that the near-by players’ profiles could be easily shared with “teammates”.  Who knows, some players might even look up long enough to say “Hi” or get to know other players. They’d bounce back and forth between real and virtual reality and even that little bit of real life is better than none at all. Perhaps VR3Pokemon Go dates could be arranged, first in AR space and then in real life. I’m sure that the game could be extended to include extra points or skills or credit for couples on Pokemon Go dates. What a concept!

The ultimate state of living in Virtual Reality was well imagined in the movie series The Matrix and follow-ons. In that imaginary world most of the “real people” existed in a trance like state while their lives played out in a Virtual Reality world that was really a huge computer program. That program was infected with the Mr. Smith virus, which did battle in the virtual world with the escaped real people who were trying to rescue the world from the controlling computer and its robots.  For any who have had very realistic dreams (or nightmares) it is not all that hard to imagine living in such a dream-state virtual reality.

I can foresee useful avenues for entertainment and learning using AR and VR, but I also think that one has to get the “R” part down first, before venturing into augmented or reality2virtual space. People need to be able to deal with the reality of the life that they are living and not just trying to escape that life by jumping into a fantasy world. One must learn how to accept and cope and deal with real life in real situations, before taking on virtual challenges. Once you have mastered how to live in your real life, then you will be ready to take on the entertainment or learning of a new, virtual world. So, dip your toe into the realm of augmented or virtual reality, but do so from a firm foundation in the real world.

Here’s looking at you …I think.

Go with the flow or stand apart…

August 9, 2016

“The thing about chameleoning your way through life is that it gets to where nothing is real.”  (John Green), as seen on a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog. A day later Jack posted this quote – “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  (Unvirtuous Abbey).

Do you know people who seem to have no opinions of their own or any firm moral ground to stand upon? How about the opposite types, those who refuse to change their opinions even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are wrong?

I’m not sure that “chameleoning” is a real word, but we probably all know what that chameleonmeans, or at least have something or someone come to mind when the term is used. Chameleons have the amazing ability to change their skin coloring as they need to in order to blend in with their surroundings. For them it is a defense mechanism. Perhaps that is also true for those who we know who seem to change with each situation that they encounter. They have what might be called situational ethics and go with the crowd in any situation in hopes of blending in.

Of course there are also those who are contrarians in every situation. Whatever the crowd is in favor of, they are against. Sometimes this is also a defense mechanism, since it allows stubbornthat person to remain alienated and apart from the crowd. They often have deep insecurities that feed on the rejection and loneliness that their action precipitates. Their real fear may be of being accepted and being expected to act like one of the crowd that they are avoiding. Their defense becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, since they are rejected and left alone.

Taken to the extreme, neither of those approaches to life is very satisfactory over time. The person who is a total Chameleon will find that they have developed no basis for independent thoughts and actions when the crowd is no longer around. They may have no moral compass to guide them through life and may not have developed any real interests or passions of their own. They are unable to be “real”, because they may no longer know what “real” is for them. These might be the people from whom the day is devoted to “living” on social media platforms, who post what they had for breakfast, as if anyone really cares.

The total contrarian, on the other hand, will find that it is virtually impossible to live a fulfilling life totally apart from the rest of society and that interdependence with others is Gotha key to establishing our own identity and finding true happiness. Interestingly even those who pursue the contrarian “Goth” lifestyle trend to congregate with others of that lifestyle, those creating a “crowd” of their own that they then try to fit in with. Eventually they come to realize that serving others is much more rewarding than being self-serving. Those who don’t come to that realization become what we call “hermits” and live apart from society.

The second little quote is not referring back to being Chameleon-like; but rather to not becoming so ridged in our beliefs that we become stuffy or obstructionists. I belong to several organizations in which the phrase “that’s the way it has always been done” comes up a lot. There is certainly a place for understanding the history of how we got to wherever decisionswe are at any point in time; however, to become inflexible about the future direction based solely on the past is wrong. Things change, new options that didn’t exist in the past open up and we hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past and consider new approaches to things. We remain flexible and don’t get bent out of shape by suggestions for change.

So, guard against the extremes of becoming a Chameleon and having no real identity or beliefs of your own or a contrarian and being against everything; however, remain flexible and open-minded enough to consider opinions and options that you may not have encountered before. The key to being flexible without going to the extremes is to have a central touchstone of moral values from which you can examine the options in front of you and upon which you can base your decisions. For most that moralWWJD compass is based upon common sense that is rooted in religious beliefs and values. If you can start with a strong sense of right and wrong in your life, based upon the teachings in the Bible, the rest of the decisions that you have to make are much easier.

As you start each day, get real. Start by setting your moral compass, thinking about who you are and the direction that you are intending to go that day; but remain flexible as the day progresses and open to new ideas, new people and new directions. As long as you have a strong sense of your own identity and your moral compass to guide you the journey will continue to be amazing and satisfying. Have a great week ahead!


It’s the same for prayer…

August 8, 2016

You can’t get much done in life, if you only work on the days you feel good.”  (Jerry West) Today’s little quote was one that I saw some time back on my favorite blog site – Jack’s Winning Words. It got me to thinking not only how true it is, but what a parallel there is to prayer in our lives. There is a similar quote about that – “If you only pray when you’re in trouble…you’re in trouble”.

So maybe that means that you won’t get much out of prayer if you only pray when youman praying need God’s help with something. Perhaps you should make a daily habit of prayer and use most of them to thank God for all that He has done for you already. Occasionally you may have to ask God for help with something; but by then you’ll also have a pretty good appreciation for all that He has already done for you and perhaps a stronger faith that your prayers will be answer this time, too.

I find myself, on occasion, coming to realize that some fortuitous thing that has just helping handshappened in my life is not happenstance, but the hand of God at work in my life. Many times it is something that didn’t happen, but could have, with either damaging or embarrassing consequences. I take a moment for a little prayer to thank Him for saving my bacon once again. There’s a common saying that people often use that “my guardian angel was looking out for me”; well that guardian angel was really the hand of God resting on your shoulder. So say a little prayer of thanks the next time you realize that you just dodged one of life’s little bullets because the hand of God nudged you out of harm’s way.praying

Most of us go to work every day whether we really feel good or not. Get in the habit of taking a little time for prayer every day too, whether you need something or not. Maybe you’ll find that you can start each day feeling good because you got off to a good start with a little prayer.

RESPECT…is that the secret to a good relationship/ marriage?

August 4, 2016

I deal with a good number of home sales that are precipitated by divorces; so, I get to hear about the issues that caused those failed marriages. One such conversation brought up the topic of respect for each other as a key (in that particular case probably THE key) to the success or failure of a relationship or marriage.

Leading up to that conclusion from my discussion partner, I had shared my observations Respect1that marriages, in order to be successful over time, had to be based upon things more substantial than the initial physical attraction that may have led to the marriage in the first place. I hadn’t really put a word to those things before, but respect seems to be an appropriate choice.

Couples who don’t respect each other end up in unbalanced relationships. One partner may come to think of their partner as somehow a junior partner intellectually or in terms of contribution to the marriage, because they don’t respect the thoughts, opinions or feelings of their mate or don’t put much value on the things that they are contributing to the marriage on a daily basis. This type of marriage usually results in one partner dominating the other in ways that eventually become so onerous that the marriage dissolves. It is not that hard to tell Respect3when one partner had no respect for the other; but it is hard to take over time. Marriages involving a so-called “throphy-wife” come to mind. There is often little respect involved in those unions.

So, instead of just tossing off a casual “I love you” from time to time; try saying “I respect you” and then stop to think about what saying that entails. You are saying, I value and respect your opinion on things and want to hear it before we make decisions about things that are important in our lives. You are admitting that the things that you do to make out home what it is and to raise our children are as important, maybe even more so, that the things that I may do at work each day to earn our income. In two-income families you’re really saying that I respect the job you have and the contributions that you make to our livelihood. You are also saying that I recognize and admire the things that you do every day for me and I hope I can do some things for you, too. Self-esteem is how you keep yourself together; respect is how you keep your relationship together. Both are essential to a happy married life.

Respect in the marriage also means that you must understand and appreciate that your partner needs to have their own time, their own interests and their own privacy, when they want it; that they have not given those things up entirely to enter into this relationship with you. You need to respect them as their own person just as you expect that respect for you. It’s not all aboutRespect2 me or even all about us as a couple; it’s really all about mutually respecting the two individuals who have chosen to go through life together. You both have feelings and thoughts and opinions that the other needs to respect, even if they can’t quite understand them. Accept them, respect them and move on together. Also remember that respect in a relationship is a 2-way street – you don’t earn it unless you give it.

So maybe Aretha Franklin had it right in her rendition of the song RESPECT – all you need is a little bit of RESPECT to make things work. Give some thought to the level of respect that you currently have for your life partner and make the effort to examine your own expectations, behavior and efforts in making things in your relationship work. If you can’t say that you respect your partner, perhaps you are in a union that will not work over the long run. If you can honestly say that you respect your partner, then you have a great chance of making the relationship work.

Have a great and respectful relationship!

Celebrating with my soulmate…

August 2, 2016

“True love is finding your soulmate in your best friend.”  (Faye Hall) 

“‘Soulmate’ is an overused term, but a true soul connection is very rare, and very real.” (Hilary Duff)

“A soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace.”

—Thomas Moore

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”  (Emily Bronte)

I open with a bunch of quotes that help explain the depth of my personal joysoulmate3 of celebrating 50 years of marriage to my soulmate this month. Like most our relationship was born in the passionate heat of youthful physical attraction. For some that is all that there is in the relationship and when that cools a bit there is no substance left to hold things together. Others may also know the joy of finding the person that you had such physical passion for also turned out to be a soulmate, in the sense that Thomas Moore was describing.

My wife Carolyn is my best friend and my soulmate. We have been through too much together in 50 years of marriage to relate here; but, whatever we faced, soulmate1we faced together and I always knew that she had my back, just as I tried to have hers. As our relationship deepened and evolved it took on that somewhat weird characteristic in which we could somehow be having the same thoughts at about the same time, whether it was about where to go to eat on a weekend night or maybe what to do in certain life situations. Now, a case could be made that we just came to know each other’s tastes and tendencies so well that we are anticipating each other, but I’d submit that this is a part of being true soulmates – you just somehow know what the other person is thinking.

After 50 years of marriage, we are obviously entering the twilight of our lives and I can think of no one that I would rather watch life’s sunset with that her. Have we made each other mad on occasion? Have we disappointed each other from time to time? Have we ever been annoyed with each other? Sure to all of those; however, we always say “I love old cooupleyou” before we go to bed for the night. We get through life’s trials and tribulations. We go on and we find ways to be happy with what God has given us; instead of being envious or bitter about what we do not have. We have two wonderful children with great soulmates of their own and five fabulous grandchildren. We have a home we love in a super little Village and two great little furry companions to keep us smiling. We have a strong faith and a great church family and a circle of supportive friends. Life is good; but, best of all, we both have our soulmate and nothing could be better than that.

solmate2I sincerely hope that all of you who may read this have the great good fortune that I’ve had in my life and find (or have found) your soulmate. To steal a line from a popular commercial, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” May you find, or continue to be happy with, your soulmate. Like Emily Bronte I can truthfully say – Whatever our souls are made of, hers and mine are the same. I love you Carolyn. You are my best friend and my soulmate.