Teetering on the seesaw of life or mastering the winds of change…

May 23, 2017

“The world is an eternal seesaw.”  (Montaigne) – as seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Life is indeed full of ups and downs, of good and bad things, of friends and those we believe wish us no good, and of threats and rewards. No matter what state your life is in currently it is bound to change sometime soon. No matter how hard we try to grasp it we cannot hold on to the past and are forced to deal with the changes that are occurring in the present with little real insight into the future.

Intime for change order to avoid being run over by change, one must embrace change. One cannot stop the flow of change, but like a surfer riding a wave, one can get on top of change and enjoy the ride. One might even be able to effect the changes that are in motion so that they take you in a direction that you want to go, rather than just sweeping you along to some unknown destination

Perhaps the most important thing that one can do is to approach all things in life, including the changes that are happening all around us, with a positive attitude. It is all too easy, when the winds of change appear to be blowing against you, to let a negativedumb blob guy and defeatist attitude take over your life. Maintaining a positive attitude is key.  Brian Tracy pout it well when he said – “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”

Good sailors know how to use the winds that are there, no matter which way they are blowing, to take them in the direction that they want to go. In order to sail in any direction other than with the wind, sailors need a centerboard (or keel equivalent) and a good rudder. In life we need that positive attitude as our centerboard and, I would sailboatsubmit, we need faith as our rudder to sail against the winds of change and the ups and downs that come with change. Sailors also study the stars and their maps to guide them, just as we can study the bible for guidance in our lives.

Change is inevitable, as are the ups and downs of life, but if we keep a positive attitude at our center and let our faith act as our rudder to guide us against the winds in life that seek to blow us off course, we will not only weather change but thrive in the midst of it. I love a quote that I found from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon – “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”

I particularly like the last four words of Jeff’s quote. For some people complaining isn’t so much their strategy as it is their response to change. Those people not only accept that bad things will happen in their lives, they come to expect them and many adopt a defeatist attitude that eventually morphs into “why even try; I know I’m going to lose”. Try to stay away from those people because like a drowning swimmer they will try to drag you down with them.

Your walking manresponse to change based upon a positive attitude as your centerboard and your faith as your rudder will allow you master change and not let it get the upper hand on you. You will control your direction and your destiny, no matter which way the winds of change are blowing. Perhaps Sherrie Eldridge put it best when she said – “The remarkable thing we have is a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude”

How will you react to the changes that you encounter today?


Healing your wounds…

May 18, 2017

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, retired pastor Jack Freed shared this tidbit of wisdom from and unexpected source – “A wound gets worse when it’s treated with neglect.”  (Stevie Nicks).

It may be opined that Nicks was not talking about physical wounds, but rather those wounds to our ego that are inflicted upon us by others through actions or words, or perhaps wounds that are self-inflicted. The same can be said about the wounds that we may inflict upon others, either intentional or inadvertent.  Sometimes the wounds come from perceived slights (real or crying-2imagined) rather than from overt actions or words. In any case the advice that Nicks give is not to let those wounds fester, not to neglect them; rather you should deal with them.

If you read the advice columns in the papers, you will notice that many of the letters to the columnists deal with these types of wounds. They are filled with laments that “she said this about me” or “he did that to me” and sometimes just “I was left out of the family event”. Those are all wounds that need attention and writing to the advice columnist is one way to give them some attention. Perhaps the better way it to learn how to deal with your wounds yourself.

A good start is by understanding the old phrase, “perception is reality”. The person or people making the hurtful (to you anyway) comments that wound your ego have somehow come to the perception that they represent the truth (reality) about you. Youvisualizing must accept that, for them anyway, this is reality as far as you are concerned. If you begin by stopping to analyze what that reality is in their eyes, you might discover the grain of truth that is at the core of their perception of you. Maybe they say, “I don’t like being around him/her, because he/she is always in a bad (down) mood and I don’t want him/her to bring mine down, too.” Wow, you are perceived as Debbie Downer, the moody person who isn’t much fun to be around. How did that happen?

Maybe, whenever anyone greets you and asks how you are, you go into some long, dreary story about how bad your life is. Perhaps you are overtly seeking sympathy, or maybe you just don’t realize how a negative response to what is meant as a cheerful opening en joiner; whatever the reason, stop and think before exposing your wounds to depression4others, in hopes that they will empathize with you. Once the initial pleasantries are exchanged, you may be able to judge whether this person has enough interest in you or is a close enough friend to share a wound or two and to seek advice from. The BFF’s in your life may be the only ones that you meet to whom you should ever expose your wounds. Do that too often with them and even BFFs will start to avoid you.

Understanding the perceptions that you give people does not really treat your wounds, but it may help prevent even more wounds from people who are turned off by your behavior or demeanor. So, maybe rule number one should be, “Don’t wear your wounds on your sleeve for everyone to see”

Rule number two might be, “Do something about it – treat your wounds.” Wounds to your ego are like zits on the face of a teenager. They may make you self-conscious, they may shake your self-confidence, or they may just make you frustrated and mad. If carried in silence they can lead you into dark places where others will avoid going.

I have possorry 2ted here before about dealing with problems and putting them behind you. That is the best way to handle your wounds, too. First, acknowledge that something that you did or that someone else did is bothering you – it is an open wound. Then determine if there is anything that you or anyone else might do that would correct, mitigate or make right what has happened or what was said. If it was you who said something that hurt someone else, and now that thoughtless action has bounced back to wound you; then you know who can fix that. Apologizing and saying that you are sorry to the person impacted by your actions will have a salving effect on them and on you. You may cure two wounds at once.

If someone else has offended you somehow, causing a wound that you wish to heal, the most honest approach is to confront them directly and explain how what they said or did made you feel; how it wounded you. Unless you have been attacked by a malevolent person who is out to do you harm for some reason, most of the time you will find that the other person didn’t mean to cause you any harm or pain – the slight or comment was inadvertent or perhaps totally misunderstood. It helps to start out by giving the other party the benefit of the doubt that the incident was really meant to wound you.

If, somehow, the wound that you are feeling was self-inflicted, caused by some action mistakrethat you took that you now regret; you need to give yourself some slack and try to turn this into a learning experience. Beating yourself up is never the best way to deal with a failure or a mistake. Stop an analyze what your thought process was going into the event and which of the assumptions that you might have made, or which “facts” that you were relying on, might have been wrong and steered you in the wrong direction. Learn from it.

Rule three is perhaps the hardest, but most important – forgive and move on. You can’t really move on with life carrying around a bunch of open wounds. You need to forgive the other person or yourself for what happened, acknowledge that it is in the past, andforgive move on. Even the gravest of perceived slights or actions by someone else against you must be forgiven and you certainly must be able to forgive yourself, if you are to get out of self-pity mode and get back to living.

Examples of people forgiving the most egregious offenses that I have ever seen have been featured on TV News. The survivors of the horrendous church shootings in South Caroline have forgiven the shooter. There have been other reports of similar acts of forgiveness for other horrendous crimes or actions. If you watch those reports, you will notice a sense of peace that those people have achieved by being able to forgive the other person. Certainly they will carry memories of those events for the rest of their lives; but they will not carry wounds – they have forgiven and moved on.

It is noteworthy that most of those reports of people forgiving the most heinous of woman-prayingperpetrators are about people with a strong foundation of belief in God in their lives. As part of their healing process, they have taken their wounds to God and He has healed them. They are able to say “I forgive you” to the person how harmed them because they are secure in the belief that God has forgiven them all of their sins, no matter how small or large.

I like the way Lewis B. Smedes put it – “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”  

So, forgive and turn away from the past; and look to your future with hope. You have healed your wounds.


Great things are possible in October, too.

May 16, 2017

As seen in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “All things seem possible in May.”  (Edwin Way Teale)

Whether Teale had this in mind or not (I suspect that that he did), the metaphor for life in that saying says that all things seem possible as you look at life from the front end of it – in May, so to speak. Too many people get to September or October on life’s calendar and seem to give up on most things that they may have had as dream on the front end. There are probably a few things that one must let go of as  we age, but I was encouraged by George H. W. Bush jumping out of and airplane when he was 90 years old. He didn’t let go of that dream.

There are obvious physical limitations that age imposes on all of us, some more so that others; however, I suspect that many restrictions on our activities are more self-imposed zip linethan forced upon us. Sometimes we become overly cautious, because we let the fear of what could happen prevent us from even trying new things or things that we have dreamed about doing. One can only hope that our base of wisdom, that we’ve built up over a lifetime, serves to protect us by giving us a better ability to plan to avoid the risks involved, rather than to let them stop us.  That’s why I like that recent ad with the older guy going down the zip line, having taken the necessary precautions to make sure that he doesn’t fall out, rather than not doing it at all based upon fear or the trepidation of others.

Certain things in life take on a different meaning, and sometimes a deeper meaning,

ID-1009082

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

inthe Autumn of one’s life than they had in the Spring. Love and marriage are two that come to mind immediately. As we age, the heat of youthful passion in a loving relationship may give way to the warm and mature glow of friendship and contentment and the attraction for a spouse may mature from the physical to a deeper level of commitment, understanding and sharing.

The Fall and Winter of one’s life need not be lonely or boring times of inactivity, just based upon the physical constraints imposed by age or infirmities.  While there will be things that one is physically no longer able to do, there are so many other things that require more mental than physical ability that one should never become bored or inactive. Every community has tons of volunteer opportunities, so there are always ways to serve others, while staying active yourself and giving you opportunities to meet other people.

So, as you wind down the career that you embarked upon in May of your life, find ways to shift your time and energy into other things that will be rewarding and keep you busy. One can only play so much golf every week or whatever you initially had in mind for your retirement. Travels can provide some entertainment and may even be educational; but even that can get old rather fast. The unfulfilled urge that you may keep feeling is caregiverreally a call to continue to feel useful and needed. You can find fulfillment for that urge by serving others and giving back to your community. You may well find that the simple “Thank you” that you’ll get from the elderly shut in that you just delivered a meal to feels more rewarding that all of the plaques and awards that you may have garnered over the business career that you had.

So, turn the page on your life calendar and look forward into the Fall and Winter of your life in anticipation of all of the great opportunities that still lie ahead for you. You still have two of the three seasons of life ahead of you and there’s no reason not to enjoy them and get as much out of them as you did in the first two. If nothing else, take to heart this little saying by Hans Christian Andersen – “Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.”

Maybe you should wake up each morning, thank God for another day, and get busy being helpful by serving others. You may find that you are living by the philosophy, “I don’t have time to be dead, there’s too much still to do.”

Have a great Fall and Winter. Great things are still possible.


Can’t figure something out? Try looking at it from a new perspective.

May 10, 2017

From a recent post at  Jack’s Winning Words blog – “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must continually look at things in a different way.”  (Tom Schulman)  A professor surprised his class by hopping up on a desk to give his lecture.  The students remembered what he said, because they saw him differently.

We all look at life and the situations that we confront from our own perspective. We seldom take the time to hop up upon a desk to “see” things from another perspective. That is particularly true of our encounters and interactions with other people. If we are honest with ourselves, the perspective lens that we look at others through is called judgement. We judge others from our own frame of reference, rather than just see and girl with nose chainaccept them for who they are without prejudice. As a test, imagine that two girls walk into a room where you are. One looks “normal” and the other is sporting a nose ring and purple lips. What is your immediate reaction to them? Did you jump to a conclusion (a judgement) right away about the girl with the nose ring? I wonder what she thought about me if she saw an old dude standing there gawking at her.

We seldom stop to think about or take the time to attempt to see things from another perspective, especially the perspective of someone else. Rather we judge them from our own perspective and cannot fathom why they have made the choices that they have made. It may be the choice of their appearance or it may be the choice of an action that they have taken. On the surface an action may just appear to be a criminal act that needs to be punished; however, below that surface may be a set of circumstances that depression4precipitated the poor decision that led to that act. Was it caused by desperate hunger or maybe even overwhelming fear? Was it caused by the need to feed and addiction and what was the root cause of that addition? Is the behavior driven by a condition or illness that we just don’t understand? After all, how does one put oneself into the shoes of a person on the autism spectrum and see things as they see them?

You can read about things, like the post that I had here some time back that referenced a blog by a person on the autism spectrum who tried to describe her perspective on the world – how it feels to be autistic. That was a post about “trying to understand others without a frame of reference”. There was a later one about how it feels to be depressed. In both cases there was someone who lives those perspectives trying to share their point of view with others, so that they might be better understood themselves. There was a recent article in the Detroit Free Press about a recent MSU grad who overcame bi-polar disorder to pursue his dreams. I read it, but I still can’t get to the perspective that he must have had battling with that disorder.

I have also posted here many times about valuing diversity and about accepting people who embrace different lifestyles, like the GLBTQI community, yet I am still susceptible tolbgtqi-symbol making those snap judgments that many do, just based upon appearance or mannerisms. It takes a discipline that I have yet to master to prevent that from happening and to be able to think and accept, before rushing to judgement. I’m still working on that.

The recent seismic political changes in Washington are forcing many of us to try to gain some perspective on the point-of-view of the conservatives who now rule the land. There are lots of terms used to describe what they are apparently trying to accomplish – smaller government, less intrusion in our personal lives by government, reduced taxes, reduced regulation of day-to-day life, the sanctity of life, and on and on. On the surface, many of these ideas or ideologies don’t sound bad. The devil is in the details of how they are being implemented. There is a supreme irony in saying that you are providing better health care for everyone while at the same time causing millions of people to lose what little health care that they had. I still can’t get my head around that perspective. At the arrogantsame time, I read week after week about doctors and other health care “professionals” being prosecuted for fraud that saps millions from the healthcare system and about drug costs that have gone through the roof due to a broken healthcare payments system.

It is hard in the face of all that is happening not to become cynical about government and about a life that seems to be stacked against the average person. That is where one’s faith can provide the perspective that is needed to cope with the situation at hand. I posted recently about trusting God’s will and plan for our lives. Perhaps we need to extend that trust to life in general and our currently political situation specifically. Rather than praying that God find a way to “throw the bums out”; perhaps we should pray that God open their eye to the needs of all and guide them in their political actions. I’ll save the “throw the bums out” prayer if that doesn’t work.

Trying to see things from a different perspective or from someone else’s point-of-view at least forces us to try to imagine something different – a different way of looking at things and a different set of values for making decisions. That can be especially hard when both of the parties claim to be basing their value systems on the same thing. Both the conservative and the liberal sides of the political spectrum claim to be basing their core values on a belief in God and their own interpretation of the guidance to be found in thereading-bible Bible and the teachings of Jesus; yet they arrive at dramatically different perspectives on life and in the decisions that they make. It seems to me that at its core the two points of view can be expressed as “leave me alone” and “let me help you”. At the one extreme is anarchy and at the other socialism. Of course, neither will ever be achieved, but those end goals seem to drive the participants’ behavior.

I suppose that a Utopian view might be that everyone is cared for and all needs met without anyone having to pay for anything and everyone being free to do whatever they want. Not even God has figured out how to do that yet, unless you include heaven in the equation. Until such time as we get to heaven, the best that we might be able to do is to visualizingtry to stop and think before we react. Some and try to see, and perhaps understand a little, that the other person has a different perspective on the situation than we do. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different from our view of things and we need to acknowledge that difference and factor that different point-of-view into our reaction to things. You may never be able to figure it out, but you can factor it in. That is a step in the right direction and may even give you a different perspective on things.

Here’s looking at you (from a different perspective).


Is it more than just business to you?

May 6, 2017

“If you are helping someone and expecting something in return, you are doing business not kindness.”  (Unknown) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’ve posted here several times before about helping others as a way to do something meaningful with your life. I never once mentioned expecting something in return, unless one counts the great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with a helperselfless effort to help others in need. There are, however, those who do what appears to be volunteer work to help others but who have ulterior motives. Many of these people are in it to be seen, to be considered to be kind and helpful by others; presumably others whom they think it is important to impress.

You may have been involved with a volunteer effort with people like that. They end up the day of hard work looking pretty much the same as when they arrived. Many of them spend the entire time chatting with others or helping “supervise” the work. They always seem to end up in the front of the groups if there are pictures to be taken for PR purposes. To them the effort is just business; it’s a way for them to earn some “credits” for their volunteerism.

One thing that always impressed me about ex-President Jimmy Carter was that, when he volunteered at Habitat for Humanity build sites; he actually worked. He got dirty anddigging sweaty like everyone else on the site. Most important people show up for things like a ground breaking ceremony with suit and tie on and stand there with their silver shovel for the photo op and then are never seen again. Do you know people like that?

The opportunity to help someone, or to help in some effort that will benefit someone in need, is Gods way of letting us do His work with our hands. In fact, that is the theme of a upcoming weekend of volunteerism for the ELCA Lutheran Church – God’s Work, Our Hands. It is somewhat sad to think that for some this annual event is their one time of the year to get involved with volunteer work and get their ticket punched for the year. There are certainly opportunities to do work that is needed every day of the year.

I will admit that I’m not much for the hooky shirts with the theme God’s Work Our Hands emblazoned across the front or back. I think they are tacky and advertising your good works like that is really just an invitation for compliments – you are trying to get something back for the work that you are doing. You never saw Mother Therese running sewrving souparound Calcutta with a T-shirt like that on, nor will you ever see them on the thousands of volunteers who toil year around behind the scenes as food servers at shelters or councilors at safe houses.

Those people and the many, many more who work as volunteers for all of the right reasons don’t do so because they expect a reward, either here or in heaven. They do so because it is the right thing to do, the thing that God has called upon them to do; and, at the end of the day their own sense of satisfaction is reward enough. They are doing kindness and not business.

Have a great and fulfilling weekend.


Consider the alternative and turn to God…

May 4, 2017

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog had this advice –  “Life is not always what one wants it to be, but make the best of it, as it is the only way of being happy.”  (Lady Randolph Churchill)

That advice seems to pair well with an earlier post to the same blog – “When things go wrong, consider what went right.”  (Kristen Jordan Shamus)

I chose to title this post “Consider the alternative…” because too many of us go there without considering it. Rather than follow the advice of those two quotes, we have adepression3 tendency to wallow in self-pity or to seek to blame others for our failures or the calamities that may befall us. Some turn to drugs or alcohol in tough times. Because we go there, rather than heading Lady Churchill’s advice we descend into depression or live an unhappy life, convinced that somehow life is being unfair to us.

The advice that Kristen Shamus gave in her quote is really a key to achieving the happiness that Lady Churchill was speaking of when she advised to make the best of things as they are. When one stops to consider what went right in the face of disaster or failure, the starting point should be to be thankful that you are still here to consider what when right. First off, whatever it was that you just went through didn’t kill you; you’re still here. So, that went right. Second, if you stop and think about it, you learned something from the experience. Somewhere in the back of your mind is a little “Don’t do that again” Post It note that has been added to your knowledge base. So, you have gained in wisdom. The third thing is that you are now on a different path than you were on. Whether you have weathered a disaster or a failure, things will never be the same and you must now head in some new direction with your life. Maybe what went right there is that you finally have stopped progressing down a path that was sure to lead to an outcome that was not good.

Sometimes life’s disasters or failures bring people back to God. The curve balls that life woman-prayingthrows at us can become so overwhelming that we finally admit to ourselves that we can’t handle them and turn back to the one power in the universe that can handle anything – God. At the point at which we surrender to the will of God, rather than continue our foolish fight against the impossible or inevitable, we are given the power to see what went right and find happiness by making the best of things as they are. You really don’t have to understand what God’s plan for you is; you just need to accept that He has one and that, in the end, everything will be alright. You can give up your anger, your pain and your frustrations with what has happened and say, “Thy will be done.”  The immediate release that you will feel will allow you to re-focus on what has gone right in your life and what (and who) is really important.

When you stop to consider the alternative (continuing to be angry or sad or hurt or frustrated or disappointed), finding a way to let go, by inviting God back into your life is a pretty appealing alternative. But, don’t expect that every issue that you offload to God will immediately go away or be solved. Rather, find comfort in this quote from PatriciaGods Peace Heaton – “I have to keep reminding myself: If you give your life to God, he doesn’t promise you happiness and that everything will go well. But he does promise you peace. You can have peace and joy, even in bad circumstances.” How comforting is the thought of being at peace even in the face of adversity.

One of my favorite people here in my little town is our local Methodist pastor, Doug McMunn. Doug often uses the phrase “Be at peace” when discussing situations that are difficult. I think that is great advice and the way to find that peace is through your belief and trust in God. So, when life doesn’t go the way that you had hoped, make the best of it by considering what went right and making the best of it – be at peace.


Pay attention to the most interesting of all…

May 2, 2017

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come s today’s inspiration – “There are millions of interesting things in this world, but they don’t actually become interesting until we devote our attention to them.”  (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

When you think about it there are interesting things all around us that we ignore in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes we only pay attention to them if someone makes a television show about them, whether it be interesting buildings in our town or the local flora and fauna that we drive or walk past every day. Somehow they become interesting enough to us to pause and take notice.

Log CabinObjects can be interesting because of the stories or history that might be behind them. IF you go to our local Milford Historical Museum you can see lots of things from the past in the Milford area, stating with a replica of the interior of a typical log cabin that the first settlers built. You come away amazed at how resourceful they were, even though they had none of our modern conveniences. Believe it or not l, they were able to get by without smart phones or TV’s.

Perhaps the most interesting things that you can focus your attention upon are the people that you encounter as you move thorough life. Just think how many people you pass by each day without having any idea about them, their life and history. What stories you will never hear, if you never take the time to meet them and then pay attention to what they have to say. Objects are great, but the stories behind objects often involve how and why people used them and for what. Once you start paying attention to people you will really find out some interesting things about them and the other people and objects that have been a part of their lives. That can be very interesting.

handshakeSo, if you are looking for something interesting to do, meet someone new and start paying attention to the story of their life. You will probably get the chance to share your life with them, too; because they will find your life interesting, too (even if you thought it was boring). What makes meeting and talking with other people so interesting is that they have done things and gone to places and had experiences that we haven’t, so they provide new knowledge about things that we may not have even thought about. You would be surprised at the things you can learn from someone whom you may have always seen as a boring, normal person – maybe a quiet and reclusive neighbor or the timid wallflower who never seemed to dance with anyone or perhaps the great uncle that you had never met.

If you don’t take the time and make the effort, you will never know that the little old lady, now crippled and stooped by age and arthritis used to be a ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet or that the humble old man who is now a school crossing guard served in the Viet Nam War and received a Silver Star and the Purple Heart for heroism during an enemy attack. If you don’t pay her any attention you will never get to discusslistener with the nice little lady at the library desk her vacation trips to the Amazon jungles and her encounter with tribes of natives who are still living as they did centuries ago. Who are these people? They are the people that you past every day without paying any attention to them.

Meet someone new this week and pay enough attention to them to uncover their story, their history the things that make them interesting. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll be enriched by what you might learn about and from them. There is nothing more interesting in this world than those all around you.